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Shark Monroe (1918)

5.2
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Ratings: 5.2/10 from 6 users  
Reviews: 2 user | 1 critic

Shark Monroe is the captain of a sealing vessel in Alaskan waters. He takes on Marjorie Hilton and her brother Webster as working passengers when they are left stranded. Though a tough, ... See full summary »

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Title: Shark Monroe (1918)

Shark Monroe (1918) on IMDb 5.2/10

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Katherine MacDonald ...
Marjorie Hilton
Joseph Singleton ...
Big Baxter
George A. McDaniel ...
Webster Hilton
Bert Sprotte ...
Onion McNab
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Storyline

Shark Monroe is the captain of a sealing vessel in Alaskan waters. He takes on Marjorie Hilton and her brother Webster as working passengers when they are left stranded. Though a tough, hard-bitten man, Monroe finds himself mellowing under the influence of Marjorie. He protects her from the unclean desires of the white slaver Big Baxter, and ultimately Marjorie sees the decent man behind Monroe's coarse exterior. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Release Date:

30 June 1918 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kaptajn Monroe  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Yellow eyes, tartans and a bearded Onion.
16 April 2010 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

My thanks to Hugh Munro Neely of the Mary Pickford Institute and to NYC's Museum of Modern Art for enabling me to view MoMA's print of this silent movie. The MoMA copy is a flash print, meaning that the intertitles occupy only a few frames of footage, so that they flash on screen for less than a second at normal projection speed. There were several reasons why silent-era film companies made flash prints: nitrate film stock was notoriously flammable, and the title-card sequences tended to retain more film grain (and were thus a greater fire hazard) than the photo images. A movie print with most of its title footage removed was significantly smaller and could be stored and shipped more safely and cheaply. Also, U.S. film prints that were intended for exhibition in non-Anglophone nations were usually shipped as flash prints, requiring the foreign exhibitor to cut out each brief snippet of English dialogue and replace it with a much longer strip of footage with that same dialogue translated into the local language, appearing on screen long enough to be red comfortably.

I've sometimes been able to Steenbeck a flash print so that I can read the titles carefully. In this case, I didn't access the projector, and so I had less than a second to read each of the many titles in this movie. I hope that the vast horde of silent-film enthusiasts who value my IMDb reviews (all two of you) will pardon me if this review contains any errors.

Silent-film actor William S Hart typically played a hard man, amoral or even explicitly immoral, who reforms in the last reel for the love of a good woman. Here, he's the captain of a three-masted vessel cried the Indiana, and he's known as Shark Monroe for no discernible reason apart from being a tough customer. He consents to take Marjorie Hilton and her brother Webster to the gold-rush fields in the Klondike.

Marjorie is played by Katherine MacDonald, very pretty here and an actress of some subtlety. Possibly in homage to her Scottish surname, in this film (and others) she wears a series of different Scots tartans, though I didn't spot her wearing any of the MacDonald weaves. In one scene, she has a hairstyle and make-up that are quite pretty, though unrealistic for the Klondike. 'Shark Monroe' was filmed with the early orthochromatic film stock that was insensitive to blue, requiring actors to wear yellow make-up so as to be photographed in tints of grey resembling natural flesh tones. Katherine MacDonald had light green eyes; her close-ups in 'Shark Monroe' drop the blue, giving the remaining yellow in her pupils a feline quality that's quite startling in these monochrome grey images.

I wish that I could be as enthusiastic about Hart's costumes in this movie. He wears a couple of cozzies that seem to be made from multi-coloured quilts: perhaps appropriate to the time and place, but looking ludicrous. Meanwhile, Marjorie's brother Webster cavorts in the Klondike wearing a big floppy Windsor tie, like a sensitive pre-Raphaelite poet. The exterior shots of the frosty Yukon are in alternation with some interior shots of the local dance-hall (the 'Frisco Saloon'), which defrosts the prospectors by offering some short-skirted dancin' gals (hoarfrost?).

For some rime (sic) or reason that I couldn't glean from the flash titles, Shark Monroe abandons his ship in Alaska and tries his luck in the goldfields. This is implausible if he did it voluntarily: nearly all the people who got rich in the gold rushes were not the prospectors themselves, but rather those who sold supplies or transport to the prospectors. The frostbitten sourdoughs get the hots for Marjorie, so Monroe must defend her. In one scene, after he kills a man, deadpan William S Hart reacts by blinking several times.

The film benefits from exterior locations featuring actual snow and icicles, with the actors' breath fogging convincingly. Less convincing are the interiors, including some shots inside pitched tents which (due to the shadows and absence of breath-fog) have clearly been filmed indoors. Throughout the movie, consecutive shots in the same sequence show radically different lighting. It's normal to use more intense lighting for close-ups, but the practice shouldn't be this obvious.

Joseph Singleton, an actor unknown to me, is impressive as the villain. Bert Sprotte plays Monroe's sidekick, who's named Onion McNab for no discernible reason. (I know that 'onion' is slang for a person's head, but the only thing notable about McNab's head is that actor Sprotte's obvious crepe beard never looks the same in two consecutive shots.)

This is very much a routine Bill Hart film, notable only because he spends some time at sea for once: the shipboard scenes are more realistic than usual for this period, and there's an impressive man-overboard sequence. It's precisely because stone-faced Hart made so many movies like 'Shark Monroe' that the silent era's other and better deadpan actor — Buster Keaton — was inspired to parody Hart so devastatingly in 'The Frozen North'. I'm tempted to rate 'Shark Monroe' only 5 out of 10, but I might have missed something important in those flash titles, so I'll be generous and give it 6 out of 10.


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