Archive for The Kid


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 27, 2013 by dcairns


Vintage postcard purchased at Pordenone Festival of Silent Film’s excellent FilmFair.

In just a moment I will tell you a story that is NOT CUTE. You have been warned.

What I liked about this one is (1) It’s signed. (2) Little Jackie has guffed it up, writing “CINEMAZIN” then adding a “DA” to make “CINEMAGAZIN.” Printed on the back of the card is “CINEMAGAZINE” which is what he was aiming for, in his childish way. It appears to have been a French publication about which I can discover nothing. Grateful for any info there.

The spelling mistake seemed to make the item all the more valuable, or at least unique. Two like this can’t exist.

I happened to show the postcard to some students during a boring session in a college open day. One of the students had previously made a film about some postcards he found in a shop. He pointed out that there is VERY FADED WRITING on the back of my Coogan card. “There might be a film in that.”

All I’ve been able to make out is the address: “Jack Coogan, c/o Metro Studios, Hollywood, Calif.” Which helps confirm this as a postcard signed by little Jackie Coogan, child star, during the silent era, rather than one signed by the older Jackie Coogan in his Uncle Fester period. Who’d want HIS autograph?

Now I’m going to tell you a story that is not cute. It’s my third-hand Jackie Coogan encounter.

My friend Danny Carr’s uncle was in World War II, and he met Jackie Coogan, who was also in that war, and on the same side, as it turned out. Coogan greeted the Brits with the cheerful salutation, “Shake the hand that holds the prick that fucked Betty Grable!”

Like I say, not cute. Of course, he was much older then.

The Sunday Intertitle: Two of a Kind

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 17, 2012 by dcairns

THREE’S A CROWD seems to have marked the real downturn in Harry Langdon’s fortunes as a star. Frank Capra liked to blame Langdon’s decline on the fact that he didn’t know his own screen character because he, Capra, had created it. Capra got fired from the Langdon organisation and Langdon certainly foundered on his own.

Joseph McBride in The Catastrophe of Success, his highly critical biography of Capra, heaps scorn on this notion, pointing out Langdon’s long stage career, during which he clearly had some kind of comic character worked out. And indeed, Langdon did not have Capra’s help on all of his early shorts.

The real problem with THREE’S A CROWD is construction, although the film certainly fails to make good use of Langdon’s childlike, melancholy and uncanny qualities. The first ten minutes or so is a pretty good standalone short, with Harry as a sleepy removal man. Much use is made of Harry’s odd apartment, which has a street lamp by the bed, and the extremely long external staircase, which looks like something Tati might have had built. The nicest gag involves Harry falling through a trapdoor and dangling from a carpet that’s caught in the trap. He manages to climb the dangling rug, attempts to open the trap to get back inside, and of course releases the carpet which slides further through, Harry still clinging to it. This is repeated until he’s running out of carpet and about to plummet several storeys. Good suspense gag, good convincing comedy physics.

Then the mother and baby arrive and the film goes to crap. Influenced by THE KID, down to a dream sequence which takes the place of honest plot development, Langdon is given no amusing business involving his new foster-fatherhood, and an inert swaddled infant is no substitute for Jackie Coogan. Inviting the comparison was madness. It’s a shame because Langdon has an extraterrestrial quality, even more so than Keaton. He’s a unique presence and his best moments have an unsettling quality much to my taste.

The film does have THIS, however —

Just beautiful.

Well worth buying these —

Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success

Lost and Found: The Harry Langdon Collection

Intertitle of the Week: The David Cairns Story

Posted in FILM with tags , , on August 9, 2009 by dcairns


Not really, of course. This is from the film — the superb film –I’ll be writing about in Thursday’s The Forgotten.

Haven’t watched much silent cinema this week, (should have screened THE KID to finish off my Sunnyside-related mini-retrospective of Chaplins) and I don’t want to reveal the movie before it’s due date, but it seems rather unfair to ask you to guess this, especially as it’s a foreign movie and the above is not its original intertitle. (A friend thinks replacing title cards in foreign films is as bad as dubbing them — I wouldn’t go that far, but it is definitely a minor form of desecration.)

Instead, let’s see if you can identify this studly young brick:


I’m not sure if getting this right merits a prize or anything, but we’ll see how generous I’m feeling. Maybe I’ll make YOU give ME a prize. Still want to risk it?