Let me just say - if this were shown at a feminist's rally, the person showing the film would be strung up and hanged! It is so un-PC by today's standards that it needs to be seen to be believed. The end, for example, where Menjou has bruised the arm of Dana, and where he tries to assuage the incident by kissing the bruise, but she won't allow it because it's a badge of honor (!) - well, that's just a taste of some of the mentality of the picture. This was directed by Paul Bern, the same director who eventually married Jean Harlow, but under some still mysterious circumstances committed suicide just into the marriage.
Interesting to see another Viola Dana vehicle, though she's not as active in the film as beautiful Jetta Goudal. Menjou and 'Lefty' Flynn get most of the screen time - which wastes the time of Raymond Griffith - but that doesn't leave enough time to Dana, who only gets to react to the intertitles and Menjou. Maybe two and a half stars out of four, but beware from the beginning that the marriage code presented here is not only dated in a number of respects, but is male oriented to the point of feminist rebellion. Margaret woke up half way through this and wondered why I was watching it... I could feel her eyebrows go up even though I wasn't watching her... Thank goodness she was tired enough to fall back to sleep... I finished the film. Even my eyebrows were raised. Innocent, well, maybe the film was, but I'm not sure that's a proper word for this. Gentle, no. By today's standards incredibly dated. I wanted to like it, but I don't really think I did. It lacked the Lubitsch touch, a certain polish. Rather, it tripped over the furniture and bruised itself.
I wrote this review of it back in 2009:
"...I watched something that really makes me excited to talk about. It's "The Three Passions" (1928), directed by Rex Ingram and starring his wife Alice Terry, along with Iván Petrovich, Shayle Gardner (who literally steals the show - he's fantastic!), Clare Eames, and others. Were I a high school teacher, and suddenly I needed to discuss the meaning of 'pathos', I think I could show this film and do a creditable job. I'm not sure I've ever seen a show where pathos is more evocative than in this film. There are moments where, in other films, it would be irony that comes about, but Ingram instead chooses to use front-on pathos to illuminate the idea of what he calls 'the three passions', namely, ambition, greed, and lust for power. What IS ironic is that the passions arose in some of these characters due to lack, such lack that the only way they saw rising above it was with these same passions, but, evidently, the passions took over. It becomes very evident in the wife of the owner of the shipyard, played by Clare Eames, in one of the finest evocations of twenties cabaret decadence I've ever seen portrayed on film. Her scenes constantly reminded me of the same kind of portrayals evident in "Pandora's Box", made the year after this in Germany. Another facet of this film which simply captivates - no matter whether you like the film and its themes or not! - is the stunning photography. The cinematographer was Léonce-Henri Burel, and his vision, no doubt taken at the instance of Rex Ingram, is breathtaking. The visuals in the shipyard capture the early twentieth century's overpowering lust for size in technology, huge revolving piston wheels made of steel and iron, men dwarfed by their own abilty to create driving forces that overshadow the very men who made them, and so forth. Burel's sense of exquisite taste - and large at that - shows in his capturing the home of the shipyard owner, too. It is magnificent in its rich detail and intricate finery. Ingram doesn't miss a trick here. The owner supposedly came from nothing, was once a dock worker, now owns the shipyard, and his home is the finest one could possibly have in England - English taste just post Victorian and Edwardian, and it's really something out of a dream. One other thing that was wholly remarkable was the group of actors chosen to play the characters in a seaman's mission where they go to get food and shelter. They looked like characters out of a Dickens novel, and not one of them was made up. They were for real. Incredible faces; noses; attitudes! Films today just don't have characters like these. The plot is altogether one of the period, too; not altogether realizable, either, one that takes the decadence of the period and tries to shake it off the shoulders of the son of the shipyard owner, a son raised in the full of it, and then turn the son into a priest! Well, this occurs, much to the chagrin - and that's definitely not the genuine word! - of his father, his girl friend and possibly fiance, and his friends at Oxford University, where the son is in his final year. The plot has holes, but it works anyway. In today's jaded world it is not realistic, but the direction and acting make up for all of that in spades. By the way, the scenes in Oxford, England are revelatory, too. Oxford Street without much traffic is nearly comical compared to what it is today. 1928 was definitely another world. Acting honors go to Shayle Gardner who plays the father and owner of the shipyard and to Clare Eames who plays his incredibly lustful, shrewish, and unfaithful wife. Both are so realistic in their portrayals as to make me wish to go back and watch them again. They were truly great. Both Iván Petrovich and Alice Terry are quite wonderful, and they are the driving force for the plot, but their characters are never as strong as the parents of the young man played by Petrovich. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that I never cease to be amazed at the quality inherent in a Rex Ingram directed film. I'm really glad I had this opportunity. It's a rarely found or seen film..."
I watched "Not Guilty" (1910), a somewhat gripping 14 minute short about a man who becomes inadvertently involved in a robbery of a man's wallet and accused of the crime, found guilty, sent to jail where he's made to work on a road-gang, escapes, but is finally found not guilty and freed. It's all told very straightforwardly, but well acted except for some overly histrionic attitudes at the young man's house where his blind mother lives and where his fiancé comes to visit apparently constantly (one scene has her awakening on the floor next to the mother who's still in her chair, the implication being that they've spent the night there in one place without moving). From the story-telling viewpoint, it looks as if the young man will never get out of his jam. When that does happen at the end, it just - happens! We don't see anything except a newspaper announcing that the guilty man has confessed. That was a disappointment because it was absolutely ridiculous. Otherwise, a pretty good film. For 1910 this is decent, yes, but Griffith was doing them better. He was a better story teller by far. Still, this was fun until the otherwise nearly impossible conclusion. This is on the DVD "Thanhouser Presents Treasures from the Library of Congress", eleven releases preserved by The LOC.
This one concerns a kind of bet that is made: while viewing a painting called "The Martyr - Truth Crucified by Evil" Lucy Cotton (playing Marie) says that that title is an impossibility, that Truth cannot be crucified by Evil; Arliss (playing a man called Dr. Müller, though we know he is really the devil himself!), walking with Cotton, says she's probably correct, but he then goes about trying to prove that, yes, Evil can indeed make a martyr out of Truth! The essence of the plot is that Roland Bottomley (playing Georges), who is engaged to Marie, and whose best friend, artist Edmund Lowe (playing Paul de Veaux), who is loved by Sylvia Breamer (playing Mimi, the model), are connived by Arliss into near infidelity. In the end, a prayer leads to the devil being consumed by flames. All of this must have been quite fascinating to watch in 1921, because it is still a fascinating relic of what the stage must have been like at the turn of the twentieth century. The camera does a very nice job of moving the personalities around on film, but the story is rather stage bound. The sets are gorgeous, however, and they still play well to a modern audience. Today's audiences will have difficulty with the satiric content, and possibly the content in general, but the film graphically illustrates the differences in taste between generations that are one hundred years apart and more.
I enjoyed the film, I must admit, as much because George Arliss is one of my favorite actors, and every one of his films has a certain kind of dénouement that points, not so much a moral, rather a kind of necessary axiomatic goodness that needs to come from human beings towards each other - and which WILL come, even in the face of evil or stupidity. A live and let live kind of plot never exists in Arliss. Even his historical pieces are loaded with plot that leads us on to a certain kind of conclusion. I think that's why I find Arliss truly interesting, never dull. He's never plebeian, either, but magisterial (even in films like "Old English" or "The Guv'nor"), and his movies represent a kind of film, if not genre, that I think is nearly unique in the English speaking film.
My copy of the film is from Alpha. You never know what you're going to get for the $5-$8 Alpha films. This one is B-. The picture quality is okay, never perfect, but certainly very, very watchable! It's not blurry or white, but the sharpness is never as good as many. The score used is just okay. It's classical music that sort of fits, but... Would love to see this pristinely released with a new music score. The film was thought lost for decades, then re-discovered in the late 1990's, then shown in 2000 at a film festival. Nearly everybody seems to be releasing this film on the grey market, but it was made the year before 1922, so it shouldn't have any copyright problems.
This one is a well-acted piece, too, not prone to the arm-slinging, hand-to-mouth wide gesturing of so many pictures in the 1914-1925 stretch of time. Rather, it captures the feel of thirties American and British adventure films with the likes of Errol Flynn or John Clements. Gerald Lawrence plays the inheritor of a barony who has it stolen out from under him by an underhanded Cecil Humphreys who has Lawrence thrown into the sea and supposedly drowned by Victor McLaglen. Of course, Lawrence doesn't drown, as we find out later. Meanwhile, the lady of the piece, Lady Beatrice Fair, played by Lady Diana Manners, is put through life trial after life trial during this period of Charles II and his Restoration, including by the king himself, played by William Luff. Eventually, all this, taking place in, near, and around London, leads to the great fire of London in 1666. The fire and the events played out during the fire is not only first rate movie making, but for 1922 is spectacular in the first degree! I was not only impressed, but, frankly, surprised how great the scenes were! The film was released 1 January 1922, so it was obviously made during 1921.
I enjoy period pieces very much, especially if they're well done. This one not only incorporates a good amount of genuine history and historical characters in its telling of a fictional story, but does it with aplomb. Just watching Lennox Pawle as Samuel Pepys is a hoot! Kudos to the actors and actresses, the director, the photographer, the editor, but also to the scenario writer, Alma Reville (Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock later).
Now comes the stretch...
Madame Adele brings out her old costume from "Du Barry". Of course it fits the girl like a glove. Indeed, the girl (Betty Compson) looks EXACTLY like Madame Adele did all those years ago!! Long story short: Betty Compson revives the play "Du Barry" and is a success - but, wait: there's lots more... Compson is claiming she's Adele with lots and lots of plastic surgery!! NOW, the movie begins...
WOW! It's a fun romp. Absolute nonsense, and I couldn't stop watching. Great fun, with fine actors and actresses showing us why they were stars. They still are! By the way, I'll always laugh whenever I see Tom Ricketts. He plays Compson's manager in this one. But he played the old, old, old butler in "After the Thin Man", and he was hilarious. Here he's half-way serious, and he seems like a different person. Fine old character actor.
This was released a couple of weeks ago, and it's available through Amazon. If you want to see the silent age come alive again, here you go!
Matheson plays Sir Douglas Rolls, a great defense lawyer who is diagnosed as dying of several ailments and told to cut out his career and take it easy, travel, try to preserve himself a tad longer. Instead, he has his former love (played by Margaret Bannerman) come to him asking him to defend her husband against a murder charge. Her husband, an artist, we have watched have an affair with the murdered woman, an artist's model who has been modeling for a fine nude portrait. She also - something not known by all the different men - has been three-timing the artist, her fiancé, and another man. The artist's wife - Bannerman - still loved by Sir Douglas Rolls, gets his attention, and he agrees to defend her husband anyway - and she wishes him to defend her husband whether or not he has been faithful to her... The program then shifts to a Perry Mason like courtroom drama.
Well done, if a tad tedious by modern standards because it is rather too talky, but really interesting and fun to watch. The film harps back to a twenties stage tradition as much as anything. Still, with Matheson - slightly ripe, rather in the Richard Dix talkie tradition - the show plays remarkably well. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to watch a Matheson vehicle.
Matheson made the original "Mr. Wu" in 1919, several years before Lon Chaney, Sr. re-essayed the role. Matheson played Chinese characters several other times, too, for that matter, much like Chaney. His rather famous (in Britain) film, "Little Friend" (1934), made the same year as this one, has 15 year old Nova Pilbeam (in her first film) witnessing a nasty divorce of her parents, Matheson and Bannerman (the latter the same actress who plays his former love in this film). Matheson essayed many, many historical roles, too, from Drake the English privateer to Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin, Henry, King of Navarre, Henry V of England, and Cardinal Medici. He began in movies in 1916 playing Shylock in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" and played his last role in 1936. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1879, he died in Barbadoes in 1948.
This is truly worth finding and watching!
Rex Lease not playing a cowboy is something of a wonder in and of itself. His brother, played by Frank Mayo, has about as much energy as molasses dried on a plate. Carmel Myers, as a Chinese gang leader, is about as realistic as me being Chinese. Edmund Breese played Chinese several times - I've got him in several of these performances - and he's actually fairly good, although his part doesn't last very long.
This not only was shot on the cheap, but it screams the fact to the viewer. In fact, the scream is so loud it may remind someone of insanity where a scream inside the head won't go away!! Some of the acting is so bad as to be laughable. The film, I must admit, however, is still fun to watch. I'm not sure why. But I could actually recommend this to early film lovers of the transition period from silent to sound. This one has most of the technical faults, and it's a good study piece for that reason. Otherwise, be warned. I'll leave it at that.
Yesterday (for the fifth time in about three weeks!!) we went to the movies and saw "Hyde Park on Hudson" (2012) with Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Wilson, Eleanor Bron, Martin McDougall, and Tim Beckmann. The first fourth of the film is the innocence of Daisy meeting up with her cousin, the President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The next quarter is her idyllic relationship as a mistress of the President. The third quarter - and coincidentally this is when the King and Queen of England arrive here in the United States, the first English royalty to ever have appeared on American shores in a diplomatic mission - the bottom drops out of the idyllic relationship. The last quarter of the film is the reality check of it all.
This is a quiet film. But only in the noise from the viewing top. It's the undercurrent that one hears. It never goes away. The director knew exactly what he was doing. This morning I find the movie more disturbing than when I finished yesterday. It's a very disturbing piece of work, really. Extremely well done. Murray is rather astonishing if all one knows him by is his comedic work. He's very subtle here, and, at times, startling like FDR. He's NOT FDR, of course, and he's not as good as Daniel Day Lewis was as Lincoln, but he's still amazingly good. Linney, too, is exceptionally good as Daisy, Roosevelt's cousin, and the actress did a very fine job of making her looks plainer than they really are. That was more of a difficult job for Olivia Williams who played Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor was about as plain-Jane as it gets. Olivia Williams isn't.
Story is told much like a Greek idyll. Settings are made the same way. They're real settings, too. Much as a Greek tragedy, the hubris in people finds a way to eat away the substance of idyllic honey and turn the reality into corrosive matter. The film doesn't end on a corrosive note, but the lesson learned is a lifetime wound.
Not a film for everybody - but a well done film!
Good show with all the ingredients of gentle comedy mixed with some rough-housing, besides. Dix, a displayer in a department store, enters a raffle and wins the so-called 'hoodoo' bad-luck automobile formerly owned by the store owner's son, a soul seemingly always in trouble with cops and women. Well, suddenly Dix begins to have the same problem, only he also gets mixed up in the life of Esther Ralston and her Aunt Edna May Oliver. Hilarious misunderstandings and undertakings become the fodder for the day! Wonderful show that moves like greased lightning and doesn't let up for a moment from beginning to end! Recommended. Newly available from Grapevine in a very nice print with good score!
I watched the film, though, because it just so happens that Humphrey Bogart was Charles Farrell's dialogue coach on the film. Too, it was the same year that Bogart appeared in the Charles Farrell film "Body and Soul", one of only two Bogart films I've never seen. I'm suspicious of the possibility that Bogart got the job because Kenneth MacKenna was a co-star in this film, and he just happened to be Bogart's best friend at that time. Bogart was a fledgling film actor at Fox at the time. Also in this film, by the way, are William Holden (no relation to the later actor of the same name), Mary Forbes, Ullrich Haupt, William Worthington, Peter Gawthorne, and Leslie Fenton.
This one begins with a very fine scene of Farrell, after a very drunken night, awakening in the middle of the afternoon to have breakfast. Meanwhile, downstairs, his very wealthy businessman father is aggravated to the hilt because Farrell's previous night's behavior is in the newspapers on the front page - not only because it must have been a very drunken evening, but because Farrell evidently married a floozy besides and now she'll take $50,000 to get out of the arrangement! I was fascinated by the fact that when father and son meet downstairs to discuss all this, Farrell's voice, which I usually can't even stand in small segments, was half way decent and watchable. This segment lasts for nearly twenty minutes, but then a new segment begins, and one might think that that's going to be the lead up part to the conclusion of the film eventually. No way. This film gets going, then has several more segments, all linked very badly, but what's worse, the film goes haywire with its writing, and the plot becomes absolutely non-sensical! Try to imagine Janet Gaynor becoming hooked on opium in a Shanghai opium den after being a rather naive girl from the Midwest who doesn't even drink! The antics of Farrell for the entire rest of the movie are about as plausible as a dog becoming President of the United States.
Stupid movie. Way too long. Nicely acted by all around, though. Good to hear Farrell's voice actually making a decent transition finally from silent film. His earlier attempts at sound are rather bad, actually. Still, the film is poorly written, in fact, badly done: Janet Gaynor delivers a few lines of metaphor, comparing her love to spring, in one scene, and it's so ridiculous as to be embarrassing to have to listen to! Skip it or watch it for the sake of Farrell and Gaynor. But - they've certainly done much, much better.
The opening is exquisite. The camera shots and the marvelous editing are fluid, genuinely dynamic. Then the story begins with one of the most stagnant scenes I've ever witnessed on screen, made worse because the microphone is menacingly visible throughout the entire scene! And the players play to the microphone by their stagnant - unendingly stationary - placement before it - the blocking looking much like a very amateur play done in high school. What's worse, one of the female characters is so awful as to be embarrassing to watch! Indeed, the opening expositionary scene is so stagy that I felt as if I were in a small theater with only ten seats in it for the audience. Really bad. It gets better, but, honestly, not by much. After such a good two minutes of opening...
This is a crime story - and a pretty good one at that. But by the end I was happy it was over. John Miljan has the best part, even better than Robert Ames, but he's not in the show enough, and he always needs great direction to give a good performance. Here he's adequate. Frankly, the best actor in the group is the director, Willard Mack. He ought to be decent: he'd been in films since 1913! He was a writer, director, actor, and producer, and even a dialogue coach on a couple of films. He could do it all, but not necessarily well enough when left all on his own...
Do NOT rush out to buy this disc. It's a curiosity at best. History in the making, but history that - thank the Lord - is past, dead and gone.
Grand old fashioned entertainment. Well worth a look see. Lucien Littlefield made over 250 movies in a career that lasted a lifetime. He only lived 65 years, but was a performer from childhood until the day he died. Many will remember him as Ira Lazar in "The Cat and the Canary" (1927) or a foil for Laurel and Hardy, but his career with Charles Murray in Vaudeville was memorable, too. Charles Murray made over 275 movies, many of them shorts, so his filmography today is nearly unknown. How unfortunate! Also in this film are Elliott Nugent, Miriam Seegar, Reed Howes, and Aggie Herring.
My print's from Grapevine, and the quality is what you get, but it's the only print, as far as anyone knows. You get what you get, skips and jumps and hisses, none of which, believe it or not, interferes with the watching much.
The hero of the film, though, is Justine Wright. If the name means nothing, that would not be a surprise. She's the editor. This film - "The Iron Lady" - has to be the single finest edited film I've ever watched!! Many are the films I've watched over the years that could have been much, much better had they only been edited in a better fashion. Some films are utterly destroyed by bad editing. Well, this film is made because of it. Well acted, superbly directed, but edited with genius! Much like an emotional roller coaster ride, this film bounces back and forth between the now and the past and in-between and the now again and... Had this been a lateral step by step progressional film it possibly would have had much less impact. Instead, as viewers we are intensely involved with the context because we feel we're inside the head of Mrs. Thatcher as she lives either in the present or the past. Kudos to director and editor.
It is no secret that, when her husband Denis died, Maggie Thatcher began to fall apart. This film, though with moments of dramatic fiction added to give the feelings that must have occurred (and may still be occurring), allows us to witness the incredibly sensitive moments that have come about since Thatcher's husband's death. The entire film is centered around these things, the deterioration and the not so gentle lapse into dementia. The scene where her dead husband goes away from her near the end - no, this is not science fiction - is overwhelmingly moving.
Go see it if you have the chance. Just a side note: the authentic footage of events that occurred during her administration of Prime Minister are not always for the squeamish! I made the comment at an earlier time after having seen "The Help" that two of those actresses deserved the Academy Award for "Best Actress". Each was superlative. Well, Meryl Streep goes a step farther in this film. She gives one of the finest performances I've ever seen, and I think it would be a miscarriage of justice if she doesn't get the award - again - for this performance.