Archive for Warner Baxter

Hitting the Wall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by dcairns

One usually hits a wall halfway through any intensive film festival, and Tuesday may have been ours. We saw lots of good stuff but didn’t make it to things we definitely had wanted to see, and I started a Luciano Emmer film and found I didn’t have enough concentration left to see it through.

We had planned a lie in, but couldn’t sleep so we headed to the Jolly for Raoul Walsh’s rowdy service romp WOMEN OF ALL NATIONS. Some thought it a weak entry, but I’m still impressed that they managed to get laughs out of El Brendel, world’s unfunniest dialect comedian. When jealous boyfriend Olaf, the strongest man in Sweden, appears, El B’s delivery of the line “It’s Olaf. And it’s all off,” lacks his usual smugness and really hit the funnybone on the head.

Plus Bela Lugosi as a cuckolded Arab prince.

This was followed by John Stahl’s SEED, introduced by Imogen Smith, who provided lots of interesting analysis of a slow but fascinating early entry in Stahl’s series of low-key melodramas on marriage and infidelity. “I hope you enjoy SEED.” We came to see Bette Davis playing a juvenile role, and stayed for the weird, ambivalent sexual politics. The film also finally made sense of the otherwise elusive appeal of John Boles. “You’re my measuring stick,” says one of the women in his life. And I can see how he’d be good for that, His head alone must be a good foot long.

Boles was back in SIX HOURS TO LIVE, supporting the equally rigid Warner Baxter, another man whose origin and purpose are still a total mystery. Raised from the dead by mad science, he might as well have not bothered. I call this one GRAVE-DIGGERS OF 1932. William Dieterle spent his time at Warners kicking against the regime of fast-paced delivery and short runtimes. Fox let him spread out a bit more, and the results in this one are a bit lugubrious at times, but with some genuinely exciting cinematic effects. A livelier cast would have pushed it over into greatness, but as it is, it’s enjoyably weird, and SIX HOURS TO LIVE did afford me half an hour of napping.

But you can’t see everything — maybe we should have gone to the 1918 TARZAN OF THE APES, or Zurlini’s CRONICA FAMILIARE with Mastroianni, and I’m sad we missed Pabst’s GEHEIMNISVOLLE TIEFE. We did listen to a lovely talk by Sir Christopher Professor Frayling about ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, but were too shattered to actually go see the film in the Piazza, which would have taken us up to around 1am, I reckon. By eating a leisurely dinner and hitting the sack, we hope to blast through some Maurice Tourneur, Segundo de Chomon, Henri Diamant-Berger, Sydney Chaplin, Mario Monicelli and Frank Borzage tomorrow. Wish us luck!

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A Glass of Water Illuminates the World

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2015 by dcairns

I’m loving this — no writing to do, just intros. I’ll be back at the weekend and have some good stuff saved up, I like to think. Meanwhile, here’s Phoebe Green on an unlikely economy drive at Warner Bros —

A GLASS OF WATER ILLUMINATES THE WORLD

Dorothy Parker, legend has it, explained a late submission to the New Yorker with “Someone else was using the pencil.” A similarly rigorous economy seems to have reigned on the set of 42nd Street, where a simple but recognizable water glass reappears throughout, to the delight of cognoscenti:

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Ruby Keeler has collapsed! But is rehydrated in the arms of George Brent. The Glass makes its début.

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The latter, sly dog, takes Ruby back to his bachelor pad. In the kitchen, he sniffs his boutonnière for freshness, decides it will do for another day, and puts it in the refrigerator in The Glass.

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Louise Beavers, the hardest-working woman in an apron in show business, gives Bebe Daniels congratulations — and a drink from The Glass.

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Now we’re in Philadelphia! Not to worry, The Glass is there at bedside for George Brent in his barebones stock-player’s hotel …

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… but also, within a minute of screen time, in the luxurious ambiance of Warner Baxter’s suite. What range, The Glass!

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Center screen, between Warner Baxter and Ruby Keeler, The Glass makes its last, iconic appearance.

A friend of mine, alerted to this phenomenon, dubbed it “endearingly Warner Brothers” and hypothesized that the WB props department contained only ONE of each item. A hypothesis substantiated by the penultimate scene of Blessed Event, in which Jack La Rue, under arrest, is not handcuffed, but simply gripped by the sleeve:

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Someone else was using the darbies.

© Phoebe Green

The Monday Intertitle: Um

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2014 by dcairns

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Just finished writing about THE SQUAW MAN, America’s first feature film and the first movie adaptation of a Broadway play (or is it? No it isn’t: see Comments section). The article will appear elsewhere, it is hoped, and I will tell you about it later.

Which means I have nothing to say here except to laugh and point at the funny intertitle.

Oh, OK. Let’s compare DeMille’s original (available only in its 1918 re-release form, I believe) with his talkie (VERY talkie) remake.

The first film manages to get its hero, an English toff, Out West in about fifteen minutes, despite pausing for a blaze at sea and some tricky business in New York. The remake takes half an hour to accomplish the same task, and doesn’t even manage the oceanic inferno or the Big Apple stopover.

The first film stars Red Wing, a full-blooded Winnebago (a tribe with what you might call cinematic implications), whereas the talking picture stars Lupe Velez. Lupe Velez was famous for not being an Indian.

The second film gets by with intertitles, although admittedly they have that Edisonian quality of sometimes telling you what you’re about to see — a film with its own spoilers — but the remake has as much verbiage as it has prairie, going on for miles in all directions. Everyone has been instructed to talk slow for the nice microphone, so that Warner Baxter (as an English nobleman, pwahahaha) sounds as much like an Indian as Lupe.

In spite of all this, I do find the remake, ponderous though it is (crude by 1931 standards) slightly more fun, if only because it contains this image —

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In fact, Eleanor Boardman, in her penultimate film,  seems to inhabit better compositions than the entire rest of the cast. I must see more of her, starting with Borzage’s THE CIRCLE, recently supplied by a thoughtful Shadowplayer