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A young William Boyd stars as the captain of the title ship who is
involved in a serious maritime challenge on behalf of the U.S. against
arch rival Britain. It's a race to see which country's best sailing
ship can get from Foochow, China to Boston the fastest. To do this they
must sail across the Pacific and around the southern tip of South
America. The prize is not only the Foochow tea trade but the winner
gets the other's ship.
Boyd's journey quickly becomes encumbered by a young stowaway (Junior Coughlin) and the unexpected additions of a young woman and her craven fiancé. When one of Boyd's crew offers to help the woman and her fiancé escape, Boyd's troubles really start brewing up. From there it's fights, attempted mutiny, budding romance, and comedy relief... and, oh yes, a race to be won. The film has its moments and, thankfully, has none of the eye-rolling acting hysterics prevalent in so many silent movies. But it also doesn't have much personality. Boyd's star part lacks color, and the female lead's part isn't any better. Obviously the filmmakers keyed on the young boy to sell the movie to the real target audience.
The VHS copy I viewed comes with an intro from Junior Coughlin that looks like it was taped in the 80's.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
British and American sailing ships vie for the China tea trade in a Foo
Chow to Boston break-neck race. Based on actual events, this thoroughly
satisfying, first-rate swashbuckler includes exotic ports of call and a
beautiful woman in distress, with the camaraderie and drama of life on
the high seas.
William Boyd (of Hopalong Cassidy fame) stars as Captain Hal Winslow, " son of a Boston ship-builder about to challenge England's flaunted speed with a new and daring type of vessel." A gorgeous nineteenth-century wooden square-rigger, The Indiana (it could never happen today) was used extensively in production. Rounding out the cast, The Yankee Clipper features the popular and much in demand child star Frank Coghlan Jr. as Mickey, a misogynistic young stowaway who later rescues unintended passenger Lady Jocelyn Huntington (Elinor Fair) in the heat of a fierce mutiny, and John Miljan as Paul de Vigny, her villainous, cowardly fiancé.
Nothing can replace the experience of watching a great silent era film at Seattle's Paramount Theater with live musical accompaniment on the original 1928 installed Publix 1, 4/20 Wurlitzer organ, featuring Dennis James at the helm. I believe Dennis has the ability to re-create a theatrical experience more closely resembling the original than any theater organ accompanist currently working that I have heard. Until recently, the 1981 re-release of the Abel Gance epic Napoléon (1927) was his only available performance on video. Flicker Alley's April release of Under Full Sail: Silent Cinema on The High Seas, featuring The Yankee Clipper (1927) with Dennis James in accompaniment not only fulfills a demand for Dennis James on video, it also features Dennis performing at Seattle's best and most popular silent film venue, The Seattle Paramount. It is certainly not the same as being there, but its pretty damn close (large screen, surround sound) and the soaring maritime score arranged and performed by Seattle's best loved accompanist will make the hair stand up on the necks of thousands of devotees who've attended these shows for so many years. It is the best possible souvenir of the live experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
.... and you can't get much better than that - playing the type of
roles they were renowned for. Miljan as the cowardly Paul de Vigney who
not only sneaks off and leaves his fiancée at the mercy of a ravenous
street mob when she thoughtlessly opens her purse to distribute a few
pennies and again in the middle of a typhoon at sea, as she is calling
for him to save her he is hiding, scared out of his wits, as well as
precipitating a mutiny by secretly hiding the ship's precious and
scarce drinking water, then when he is caught publicly blaming his
fiancée with "I did it for you"!!! Last but not least he has a lover, a
beautiful Chinese girl who he frequently beats whenever she steps out
Walter Long is at the other end of the spectrum, a brutish seaman "Iron Head Joe", head shaved, a dagger in his belt (or between his teeth), from the moment he lechered after the heroine as the sea breeze blows up her voluminous skirts!! Initially wheedling and whining, he then decides the little cabin boy has to go - he kicks him out of the way while waiting for water, then when little Mickey thwarts his plan to get the helpless heroine in his clutches, he chases the little boy along the rigging, dagger between his teeth as he gesticulates exactly what will happen to him when he is caught!! All the more realistic because it takes place on a real ship. Junior Coghlan who gave a really terrific performance as the tobacco chewing Mickey remembered the role fondly because they were filming on a real clipper for 6 months, only coming ashore to buy provisions and he also remembers William Boyd being like a father to him.
I always remember "The Yankee Clipper" as being the first silent movie I ever saw. Yes, it was in a bowdlerized version in the early TV show "Silents Please" being only half an hour long but still - my Dad fondly remembered the movie from seeing it as a kid and once the race got under way it had everything - double dyed villains, storms at sea, even a sort of walk the plank. There is some spectacular camera-work - shots taken from the crow's nest that show the crew on deck looking like ants and a really terrific long shot of Joe stalking Mickey along the rigging.
The story, oh yes, it's about a race from China to Boston involving the pride of the British fleet "The Lord of the Isles" and the American upstart "The Yankee Clipper" - the stakes - the country who wins gets China's lucrative tea trade. There is the obligatory hero and heroine - handsome William Boyd plays dashing Captain Hal Wilson who rashly bets "The Yankee Clipper" against the other ship so stakes are running high. Elinor Fair was the fair but dumb Lady Jocelyn who stood by her cowardly fiancé until the last ten minutes and wow was she pretty. Even though she had been a Wampas Baby Star in 1924 her career was very up and down and she often took months off at a time to regroup, not exactly the most sensible thing to do if you want Hollywood to remember you. By 1927 she had had a run of good luck - she had married William Boyd and also scored a Pathe contract. To capitalize on their success as a movie and real life couple they were teamed in "The Yankee Clipper".
I enjoyed this movie, and I saw it in a theater complete with the Wurlitzer organ music, which was very well done. I just wanted to point out that they do indeed introduce the American President by name... I think it said "Taft", if I remember correctly. They introduce each character as they come into the storyline, along with the actor's name portraying the character as well. I'm not really a critical silent film viewer, I just really enjoy most of them. The stand-out for me was the child, who really does a great range of facial expressions, and to me they seemed very natural, not over the top. He looks like he had a blast making the film...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently rented this DVD from Netflix and noticed that the jacket and
website said the film was from D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille.
However, Griffith's name was not on the film nor the IMDb credits. As
for DeMille, he produced the film only. So, the director, Rupert
Julian, is left out in the cold--and it's a shame as he created a nice
The film begins in Britain with Queen Victoria and her court discussing the importance of the Chinese tea trade. Then, the scene switches to the White House where you see who you think is the President (as he is NEVER called by name or addressed as the President) and his staff also talking about the importance of this trade--and how, hopefully, a new type of clipper ship will give the US the edge. According to IMDb, this was supposed to be President Zachary Taylor, though it wasn't at all apparent in the film.
For the duration of the film, you follow the adventures of the Captain of the ship, a young and handsome William Boyd (later known as 'Hopalong Cassidy' in cowboy films). Once in China, he becomes infatuated with an English woman who is engaged to a cowardly scoundrel. Later, by mistake, she and her fiancé are stuck aboard the Yankee Clipper when a race to Boston begins--the winner takes BOTH ships! Will Boyd win the race and/or win the girl? What do you think?! Still, despite few surprises the film is handled very well. It's exciting and fun...and (thankfully) a nice print from Televista. Well worth seeing.
This film is a painting rather than a film. You can see the money that has gone into the costumes and set, but no investment whatsoever in directing the actors. It lacked warmth, colour and texture. What you see on the screen is purely cosmetic.
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