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Aristocrats have good reason to be extravagant, bizarre, and nonchalant; namely, to keep the coarse people away from the upper echelon. Thus it is necessary for aristocrats to cultivate strange or fine manners, the like of which won't be used or understood by the lower classes. This discourages them from meddling in the lives of their betters.
But sometimes there is an exception, strange cases where that exclusive and private aristocratic line is crossed and the secret key to achieve such a privilege is that terrible and dangerous weapon used for years by ordinary people: love That primitive and irrational human feeling defies logic or countermeasure so it is useless to draw on such traditional defiance's as strengthening the Schloss walls with extra watchmen or putting more crocodiles in the moat.
And that's what happens in the film "Fine Manners", an oeuvre directed by Herr Richard Rosson in the silent year of 1926, a romantic comedy starring the great silent star Frau Gloria Swanson as the madcap Orchid and the impassive Eugene O'Brien as the rich and bored Brian.
The film depicts what happens when a rich boy accidentally meets a crude girl on New Year's Eve. It's a small comedy but entertaining and full of class war stories. For example, the rich boy who usually attends exclusive and normal events as balls or soirées must cope with the crude girl who likes very much going to strange places such as the fair in order to watch the educated fleas. These are certainly two very different ways of having a good time.
Interesting and different surroundings can be seen in the film, from the Amerikan soirees and exclusive apartments of the bored upper class classes to the common life of the city. The film gives a remarkable contrast of the two ways of life.
Obviously the enormous differences between classes and their completely different behaviour must be adjusted, so Frau Orchid with the help of her particular Pygmalion, Aunt Agatha ( Frau Helen Dunbar ) will learn fine manners in order to fit in to her fiancé's world. Finally, such complicated task will succeed but the boy will not like the final results because his girl is now a perfect and stiff aristocratic Frau and has lost her peculiar spontaneity and freshness, so he finally prefers that the madcap he met before come back.
There is an interesting parallel in the film; the controlled behaviour of the fairground educated fleas is against their animal nature; the same thing happens to Frau Orchid who suffers enormously because of her new fine manners. At the first chance the fleas will escape such unnatural control looking for a comfortable dog to live with and Frau Orchid will do the same, recovering her crude manners with the acquiescence of her fiancée.
Naturally, the film gives Frau Swanson an excuse to display gorgeous gowns on the screen ( her favourite pastime ) and of course there are those well-known and well illuminated and classic beautiful close-ups of her. Frau Swanson shines in the film, not surprising having in mind the many lights that were needed for those entire close ups. This is quite different from Herr O'Brien, bored and unmoved. It seems to this German count that he doesn't act but just portrays himself.
The film also has a peculiar and curious moving camera that emphasizes and gives rhythm to the film; expertly directed by Herr Rosson, this is an effective though minor silent picture.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must educate a bad mannered Teutonic fräulein.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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