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Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
A lonesome boy and a lonesome girl meet accidentally on their Saturday-off at Coney Island. It is love at fight sight but over the bewilderment of their sudden romance and escape from loneliness, they don't even realize they don'y even known each other's name until a fire breaks out and they are separated. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
A man and woman leave their respective rented rooms for work. He's a "punch presser"; she's a switchboard operator. After work, neither one feels up to joining friends; they just feel too ... single. But they both head to Coney Island. They meet, fall in love, get separated, return home distressed. A plot that simple, even clichéd, does not appear to hold much promise.
But the energy! The pacing is so frenetic. There's constant movement on camera, clocks ticking, crowds scurrying, throngs crushing, machines stamping, carnivals, streamers, roller coaster rides. Moments of relative calm come when the lovers are together.
The thrilling impersonality of the urban maelstrom has hardly been better depicted. I came away thinking it was one of the best things I've seen.
If you've seen "The Devil and Miss Jones", the Jean Arthur / Robert Cummings comedy from 1941, then you can't help but remember the Coney Island beach scene where everyone is packed in together with barely room to move.
Well, this film has a scene just like that one. In fact, the greater part of the film is that way. You're never so alone as when you're in a crowd. These scenes are funny, but they do make their point.
I saw a restored print of "Solitude" (as it was titled) with colour tinting and three sound sequences, courtesy of Cinematheque Ontario. The sound segments are just awful, so typical of the very earliest sound, but perhaps they're a blessing in disguise. The extraordinary quality of the silent film is spotlighted by the awkwardness of these three brief scenes: Jim and Mary on the beach, Jim and Mary near the midway, Jim at the police station.
The ultimate restoration of this elusive marvel would make the film silent throughout, liberating it from the stylistic cacophony of the stilted sound sequences.
Neither lead performer, Barbara Kent nor Glenn Tryon, was known to me previously. (Andy Devine is plainly recognizable however.) It seems that Tryon later became the producer of "Hellzapoppin" and "Hold That Ghost". He also holds the only acting credit for a film that anyone at all seems to have seen, "Variety Girl" from 1947. To me, Barbara Kent resembles Paulette Goddard somewhat, while Glenn Tryon looks like a brother to Don DeFore and Bob Cummings.
The screening I attended was the Toronto première of the restoration. Let's hope it now becomes more widely available.
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