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|Index||25 reviews in total|
In the Golden Age of Hollywood, amid the storied eons of the great
glamor stars, you had the Stanwyckian tough cookies, the Rogers-like
high society sophisticates, and the Garboish fragile beauties - but no
one was quite like the Jazz Age wild child Clara Bow. When she made an
entrance, she burst onto the screen like a whirlwind and didn't look
back, positively exuding earthy vitality. That she didn't have a
significant sound career is truly unfortunate, for one's imagination
plays happily with the notion of Clara bawdily defying the frigid
censors well into the culturally stolid war years. Though we didn't get
much in that way, CALL HER SAVAGE is fortunately a picture worth a
Okay, the first ten minutes make it look like a dusty old western, but STAY WITH IT...otherwise you'll be missing one of the boldest and brightest pre-Code items this side of CONVENTION CITY. When Clara first appears on horseback, the wind blowing through her hair, you will be transfixed for the remainder of the show. The narrative opens in Texas, with a rich landowner punishing his tomboy daughter Nasa (Clara) by sending her off to Chicago for charm school. He also has latent motivation in wanting to marry her off to the man of his choice. Once in the big city, Nasa becomes known as "Dynamite" in the tabloids for her volatility and elopes with a slippery charmer instead of her intended beau. He strays, so to speak, as soon as their honeymoon, leading Clara to take her leave. From here, it's a road to ruin and back again for the young lady, with a startling secret in store for her at the climax. A free-form blend of western, romantic comedy, tragedy, and everything in between, CALL HER SAVAGE takes (sometimes jarring) turns from comedy to pathos, creating an absolutely unique experience.
I can only imagine how Joseph Breen and his ilk must have gnashed their teeth over this film - virtually every scene seems to have been calculated to drive them up the wall. For all its brazenness, it's surprising that CALL HER SAVAGE was a Fox production, for one would expect it more from Warner Bros. We first see Clara in a tight-fitting white shirt, enthusiastically whipping a snake - then a handsome ranch hand when he laughs at her! Clara then tears off a portion of her shirt to tend to his wounds (my, hasn't that one been appropriated time and time again!). Further mix in race relations, prostitution, and an attempted rape of Nasa by her STD-ravaged husband ("Don't get up" she cautions. "I GET UP every afternoon!" he answers). And don't miss the detour to cinema's very first gay bar where the waiters sing about sailors in pajamas (!). On a seedier level, there's a brief but unsavory taste of pederasty when a drunken old fool approaches a little girl.
But it's Clara who makes this movie. The early scenes of her scantily clad and writhing on the grass have a palpable erotic charge that no black and white vintage can dilute (remember, this was the woman who sat through a stage performance of Dracula dressed in a fur coat - and little else). I really hope that Clara is well remembered today, for she was TRULY a star and incredible personality. A lively, vital, and eternally beautiful free spirit. But there was always a touch of sadness in those big, childlike eyes, wasn't there...
Lurid-but-fascinating tale of wild half-breed Texas heiress has
everything in it, including whippings, prostitution, extra-marital
affairs, a neglected baby, and singing homosexuals. Pre-Code stunner
boasts Clara Bow's great talkie comeback (after a bunch of so-so
talkies) and she is WONDERFUL as well as Gorgeous. Playing Nasa
Springer, Bow gets to whip a snake and Gilbert Roland, have a cat fight
with Thelma Todd, beat Monroe Owsley senseless, smash a guitar over a
servant's head, and run wild from Texas to Chicago to New York City.
Clara Bow is great in this film. Too bad Bow made only one more film
after this one (the underrated Hoopla).
Estelle Taylor, Weldon Hayburn, Russell Simpson, Fred Kohler, Dorothy Peterson, Margaret Livingston, Anthony Jowitt, and Mischa Auer co-star.
Great line as the father drives up and says "Why are you whipping that man?" Clara Bow answers, "I'm practicing in case I ever get married." Priceless!
What a film! Daring to tackle issues few films would even look at today. Stunningly photographed and directed, and with greater style than many early talkies. And at its heart is one of the best film performances ever - Clara Bow proves herself to be a magnificent actress in a role that demands she go through every possible emotion. What a loss it was to cinema when she retired, as great a loss as Garbo. Please MOMA get that restored print out on DVD, so that this great classic can be seen in all its glory!
Beautiful, in a modern way (contrast with co-star Thelma Todd), facile
with her lines, natural with her mannerisms, this lady can act! And she
has a fine voice, so the "couldn't make the transition to talkies" bit
doesn't apply here.
And the off-screen items that supposedly led to her decline are pretty lame explanations. I mean, suing someone who embezzled her was supposed to be scandalous? Even back then? What was she supposed to do, sue by proxy? I smell a John Gilbert-style studio sabotage of a "difficult star" here.
Back to the film. Call Her Savage is a Bow vehicle throughout, showcasing her broad range. Though an interesting nature-vs-nurture yarn, with frank pre-Code allusions to sexual kink and promiscuity which give us a peek into the mentality of the age, the stagy mannerisms that are the baggage of the silent era make for a somewhat dated melodrama. And the direction is pretty awful, too. But Bow manages to isolate herself from these drawbacks; in fact, throughout the film, she distinguishes herself from her surroundings. Isn't this star power?
Ordinarily, this film would score a6 or 7, but I give it a 9 because it's a rare opportunity to watch an actress whose star never should have faded.
Being a long-time fan of Clara Bow's, I have seen most of her surviving films. By far, this is Clara's best "talkie" performance. She has complete control on her emotions and her character which complete the story-line perfectly. Clara is able to show her amazing range of emotions in this movie and one cannot help but be greatly moved by her performance. All-in-all, a stunning and heart-stirring film--a must for anyone interested in Clara Bow.
CALL HER SAVAGE concerns the tumultuous adventures of a tempestuous,
rebellious girl named Nasa Springer (Clara Bow). It is definitely not a
film for everyone, as it contains some perverse elements such as a whipping
scene. Indeed, CALL HER SAVAGE sometimes approaches high camp, such as in
the film's prologue.
Despite the film's rambling storyline, however, it is never dull. This is chiefly due to Clara Bow's remarkable performance. CALL HER SAVAGE is proof that the silent star could easily handle talking films, using a low, throaty voice that matches the sensuality of her looks. Bow runs a gamut of emotions from anger to tenderness to elation to self-pity, and always with passionate conviction. Her performance conveys a well-rounded character who elicits the audience's sympathy and always remains credible, even if the scenario sometimes isn't. CALL HER SAVAGE is a must for Clara Bow fans.
*** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
1931 was one of the worst years in Clara Bow's life - a damaging court
case, gambling woes and nervous breakdowns. After being replaced in
"City Streets" (Sylvia Sidney), "The Secret Call" (Peggy Shannon) and
"Manhandled" (Claudette Colbert), Clara was let go by Paramount. People
in the know felt she would never make another movie. After an extensive
rest (she had married Rex Bell and "retired" to his ranch), who would
have thought the next year would be so bright career wise? She came
back to Hollywood as a Fox star and selected Tiffany Thayer's novel
"Call Her Savage" for her Fox debut. She looked extremely pretty and
played with much vitality. "Call Her Savage" was very popular and
promised a bright future.
There is definitely enough plot for 3 movies and it is all sensational!!! Nasa is a wildcat and after a few hair-raising incidents - whipping a rattlesnake to death and then turning on her chum, Moonglow (Gilbert Roland) and whipping him in a frenzied attack - her father decides to send her to a finishing school in Chicago but her antics don't stop there and she is frequently the subject of lurid gossip columns. When her father arranges a marriage between her and a dull college boy she rebels and elopes with womanizer Lawrence Crosby (Monroe Owsley)- after a knock down, drag 'em out fight between Nasa and Sunny (a dynamic Thelma Todd) Crosby's unfaithful mistress - it's a Wow!! Before the night is over her father has washed his hands of her and Crosby deserts her for Sunny (he had only married Nasa to make Sunny jealous). After a whirlwind few months she spends spending and gambling, her husband asks to see her - he is in a hospital suffering from insanity !!! and after almost being raped by him - she escapes to New Orleans (where else) to have her baby in peace. When she has to turn to prostitution to help pay for her baby's medicine, the boarding house where she lives burns down (something Clara experienced as a child) and her child dies. Moonglow then turns up to tell her of her inheritance - $100,000 left to her by her grandfather. Wealthy again, she returns to New York, where she hires Jay Randall (Anthony Jowitt), a wealthy young man posing as a worker, to show her the city - they even go to a "gay bar". Incredibly, while at dinner, she runs into a now recovered Crosby who is back with Sunny and the evening concludes with yet another fight between Nasa and Sunny (you just don't see this one). Just as she is about to hit the bottle again, word comes to her that her mother is dying and Nasa finally learns about her true heritage (Nasa's birth is the result of an affair between her mother and an Indian Chief). She then decides to stay with the only man who has ever shown her true affection - the half caste Moonglow.
I wonder if this was the real Clara - so vibrant, high spirited and absolutely adorable. Clara claimed this was one of her favourite films - if only her other talkies had been up to this standard. This film is a definite pre-coder and not a pretender. It is right up there with "Three on a Match" (1932) and "Baby Face" (1933).
Highly, Highly Recommended.
A good historical example, though, of how films were generally more
puritanical during the middle of the 20th century than beforehand. In this
movie, which veers from camp to slightly surreal melodrama, viewers are
treated to a wide range of prominent details that they might not expect from
such an old film.
For example, we see Clara Bow playing a promiscuous young woman (though this is eventually explained away with an excuse unlikely to be used today). Her nipples are clearly displayed (through a sheer blouse, no bra) for quite a long time, and there's an undeniable S&M scene in which she whips a forbidden love interest.
There's a frank, even casual approach taken to extramarital sex, adultery, interracial liaisons, and prostitution, and we even see a working-class gay bar complete with transvestite cabaret.
Most of these topics are treated so unjudgmentally that I was really curious if the director had any opinion at all, and I wondered how a contemporaneous audience, with both the Roaring Twenties and the stock market crash recently behind them, would have viewed the film.
An interesting film, very watchable (and frequently unintentionally amusing, to the modern eye), and, of course, historically important for being a Clara Bow talkie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just saw this movie on cable. The title is enough to make you think it is a horrible movie..BUT it actually is pretty good. I never saw Clara Bow in a talkie before and frankly I don't see how her talking voice was so bad. This was suppose to be one of the reasons she did not succeed in the talkies. I thought she was wonderful. She looked like she was having a ball. The movie obviously is Pre-code. SPOILERS AHEAD... It has a little bit of everything in it. Biblical prophacy, Inter-racial infidelity, prostitution, out of wedlock baby, father being fooled into thinking his so called daughter is his. A couple shacking up together, STD being passed on to her baby, baby dying in fire, divorce, escorts, suicide. A very weird scene that takes place in a resturant in Greenwich Village with obvious drag queens performing. Even though the crazy implication is that she is part indian so that is why she is so wild. I thought she was rather refreshing and was not some demure debutant. And of course if you are a independent free women in movies you must suffer for that. I liked the movie and I really liked Clara Bow. Too bad she was not in more talkies.
Any film that contains:
1. Clara Bow and Thelma Todd in a catfight
2. Clara Bow in a tight silk shirt where it's obvious that (A) she's not wearing a bra and (B) the set was cold that morning is an instant classic, no matter how meandering the rest of the film is.
Also, after seeing the film, I'm at a loss as to why Clara Bow didn't succeed in talkies. She's a wonderful actress, even when the material veers back and forth between sub-par and bizarre.
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