Capitolfest in Rome, NY

I attended Capitolfest 13 in Rome, New York. This was my fourth consecutive visit to this fun film festival and I was very much looking forward to seeing the one silent and four talkies—one in two-strip Technicolor!—of the feature star, Nancy Carroll.

This was also the first time the Capitolfest people decided to add something new. Due to the fact that Cinefest closed its doors after 35 years of running its Syracuse film festival in March, a dealers’ room was established for the first time. It was nice to see some of my favourite dealers, although it hasn’t been that long a time since I saw some in March and/or in May at Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio.

The other event that the organizers organized for those of us who arrived a day early, was a Thursday night screening of shorts brought and introduced by Eric Grayson, film historian and collector. This was a new addition to the festival and a group of about 50 of us crowded into a small theatre, part of the Capitol complex of buildings, to watch an odd assortment of 16mm shorts and trailers. Out of the four, the one that most stuck out in my mind was the first, an instructional film on how not to get gonorrhea, made by those folks at the Office for Emergency Management: Office of War Information, 1941-1945. It was definitely made for service men, and I mean men. The women were inconsequential. Those darn hussy’s spread the disease—especially look out for those innocent-looking babes; you’re better off sticking to women-of-the-street—and there’s certainly no mention of informing any of those naughty girls that they may want to book an appointment with their own doctor. And the punishment goes deep for those soldiers. While recuperating from VD in the army’s infirmary, they have to miss their furlough, which is made even worse by missing out on what could be their last visit ever to their family and fiancée!  Keep it in your pants for an extra week, buddy, is all can say.

VD Educational

This educational film was made of course with professional actors, and as there were no credits, the only well-known performer was Paul Kelly, who played the military doctor. We were told that this particular short was less graphic and repulsive than most of the others, still showing us what an infected penis looked like. So now we all know.

Friday, August 7 – Day 1
The first film of the day was with an all-black cast, THE FLYING ACE (1926), directed by Richard Norman, with Lawrence Criner and Kathryn Boyd.

Flying Ace (4)

The story is about Captain Billy Stokes (Lawrence Criner), an ex-ace aviator from WWI who returns home and resumes his old job as a railroad detective. He’s friendly with old man Thomas Sawtelle (George Colvin) who has a lovely daughter (and, it appears, the only woman in the entire town) Ruth (Kathryn Boyd) who is kind of sweet on the detective.

Flying Ace (1)

There’s lots for Stokes to do on his first day back. There’s the robbery of the company’s payroll of $25,000 and the victimization of Ruth’s father Thomas.

Flying Ace (2)

There’s Finley Tucker (Harold Platts), also a flyer, who’s in love with Ruth and wants her to marry him. She lets him know the feelings aren’t reciprocated but that she likes him well enough to take a plane ride with him.

Flying Ace (10)

Although she was actually hoping to learn how to fly the plane, he lets her know that it’s too complicated a feat for any girl to learn. Oh well, she thinks, and takes the back seat in the two-seater plane. This had me worried. Finley appeared dejected and now that she was trapped up in the air with him, would she have to say “yes”? It appeared she didn’t. She’s saving her heart for the Captain.

Flying Ace (8)

To help solve the crime, Billy Stokes brings in two others. The one that most stands out is Peg (Steve Reynolds). He’s quite something to behold, a man who really has lost his leg but is as nimble, or even more so at times, than someone with two. Peg must disguise himself as a tramp to follow the culprits which, in one scene, has him hop a moving train. He does all this with a feeling of glee, never asking anyone for any sort of physical assistance.

Flying Ace (7)

The film was made on a pretty low budget and when there is a plane crash, it’s made surprisingly spectacular, and a bit funny, by using a very sharp and tight camera frame to make it look as real as possible, although not quite succeeding. And the boys just can’t resist a good, long rumble in the brush!

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One interesting observation, at least to me, was that the intertitle cards were written in the most proper of English. I took this to mean a number of things, but liked to think that it was mainly because Richard Norman was respectful in his approach to the black community. This was especially noticeable when the characters were being quoted, as I felt that some of them would have spoken in the typical slang of the time, possibly with a southern accent—think Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind or Stepin Fetchit’s exaggerated mumblings. After a while I got used to it, but I thought it really stuck out, yet perhaps was an interesting gesture on the part of the production company.

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Art Pierce, Executive Director of the Capitol Theatre wrote in the notes:

(Producer and director) Richard Norman, like approximately half of the studio heads of the race film studios, was white. He had entered the motion picture field as a maker of “home talent” pictures, a popular attraction at the time, traveling to communities to make cheaply-produced movies with local talent, which then ran at the neighborhood movie theater. By the end of the ‘teens he had founded his own studio, which would specialize in movies with all-black casts that would be marketed to black communities. Whereas some of the race film studios specialized in movies with social consciousness themes, Norman’s films generally had no loftier goal than to entertain. …The fact that there were no black flyers during the First World War is not taken in consideration (in THE FLYING ACE). Making his film debut was John Lawrence Criner (here billed as “Lawrence Criner”), a member of Harlem’s Lafayette Players….

Flying Ace (3)

The next film was THE BORDER LEGION (1930), directed by Otto Brower and Edwin H. Knopf, with Jack Holt, Fay Wray, Richard Arlen and Eugene Pallette. Crazy, but this was another western that I enjoyed! And if we’re rolling on a theme here, Fay Wray was the only female in these hills as well (except for at the very beginning of the film, where we meet a woman in a dalliance with a man who’s not her husband. There’s the death of the wronged man with the culprit escaping, but I can’t remember the significance of this scene any longer.)

Border Legion (1)

There’s a band of outlaws including Bunco Davis (Eugene Pallette) and Hack Gulden (Stanley Fields), led by Jack Kells (Jack Holt). Jack and Bunco are the good bad guys while Hack is just rotten on every level. He’s so tough that he plays “chicken”, insisting that he and a fellow gang member “play with knives and see if he can miss stabbing my hand” while holding it against a tree. What would be the repercussions of that, I wonder, but this scenario is interrupted when they gather together to engage in a hold up. Afterwards Hack decides to split from the gang because he doesn’t like being bossed around by Jack and heads off in another direction. He encounters a loner camping out, ends up fatally wounding him and that’s when Jim Cleve (Richard Arlen) happens along. He learns from the dying man that the man who did this to him had a scar across his cheek and then he expires.

Border Legion (5) Border Legion (3)

But along comes some townsmen who immediately jump to the conclusion that it was Jim who murdered the old fellow. They take away his gun and haul him into the town. They’re ready to hang Jim, whether guilty or not, as an example to dissuade others from offending. But he is saved in the nick of time by Jack and Bunco and when they get him to their home base, they give him a gun, which every outlaw needs. I liked the continuity of that.

Border Legion (4)

Everyone likes Jim and he’s just as happy being an outlaw with people he likes as being a law-abiding citizen, which apparently he’s been up until now. Although a sincere and likeable person, he appears to be rather limited in his mental abilities by not putting two-and-two together when he meets up with Hack who has returned to the fold after the murder. And Hack has more foul deeds up his sleeve when he kidnaps fetching Joan Randall (Fay Wray) who has overheard their next robbery plans (or so I vaguely remember). And Hack has more planned than just holding Joan as a hostage. But Jim, who’s been brought up well, hunkers down in front of Joan’s cottage-jail to protect her through the night from any stray visitors. Bunco is also keen on protecting Miss Joan’s virtue but we learn, as the story unfolds, that Jack isn’t chivalrous in the least and that actually competition with Hack spurs him on to nearly rape Joan before she’s saved by Jim.

Border Legion (2)

I thought that was particularly interesting. We’re actually supposed to like Jack. He’s a good-bad outlaw as I mentioned above. When Jim saves Joan from this very unsettling fate, Jack tells Jim that if he had known he was sweet on Joan, he never would have tried to do what he did. What about Joan, I thought. He obviously never gave a thought that this young, virginal woman might actually be terrified of what Jack intended to do to her?

Border Legion (6) Border Legion (7)

In the end, things work out one way or another, with Jim having to choose which side of the law he’s on.

Air Mail (2)

The next film of the day was THE AIR MAIL (1925), directed by Irvin Willat, with Warner Baxter, Billie Dove, Mary Brian and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. This surviving print is almost exactly half of the footage of the original released version but the story that remained was satisfying. Larry Smith of Library of Congress provided some missing plot details in the notes, most importantly the opening lost footage: “Using a borrowed WWI aviator’s medal, Russ Kane, a crook (played by Warner Baxter) obtains work as a pilot in the airmail service with the purpose of robbing the mails. He’s part of a gang looking for loot. However, during his training period at the Reno field, he has a change of heart and dedicates himself to getting the mail through.”

Billie Dove and Warner Baxter

Billie Dove and Warner Baxter

So the version we see begins with Alice Rendon (Billie Dove) and her father, Peter (George Irving), moving out west due to Peter’s poor health. When the two finally reach their destination, it’s in a desolate, deserted ghost town on the edge of Death Valley, and their house which they purchased for $3,995, is literally built out of empty beer bottles; a rather unusual décor to say the least. And although Mary Brian shows up somewhere later in the film, this is the third film, where Alice is “the prettiest girl in town.” The only other living person they discover, is a “Chink” who lives in an underground tornado cellar. Alice has ungrudgingly given up her life to live in isolation and take care of her ailing father. She dreams, though, of romance and one night during a severe storm, she brings to safety Russ Kane who has managed to land his plane before the heavy rainstorm causes him to crash. She brings him to their home and they all become fast friends. But Russ must continue on once the storm has quelled and whenever he passes overhead, the little lone figure of Alice waves to Russ flying way, way up in the sky.

Air Mail (4)

While reading the book “Shadows Die”, which to my mind was the foreshadowing of Peter accidently dropping and breaking his last remaining bottle of medicine, Alice becomes worried and manages, to my surprise, to wave down Russ’s plane. I think she first tries to get him to see that she’s signaling him with hand motions, which to my way of thinking, couldn’t be seen from way up yonder, but when she throws herself to the ground in despair, kind of like a toddler having a tantrum, he notices and lands. He promises to bring the medicine as soon as humanly possible.

Air Mail (5)

Meanwhile, three criminals have been lurking around the deserted town and when they see a young woman, they take the advantage of raiding their defenseless home, holding them hostage and making Alice cook for them (of course).

Air Mail (1)

There’s all kinds of troubles that happen throughout the film, the concluding one being when Russ uses the help of Sandy (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) in a daredevil flight to get a package to safety. The details escape me now, but what was the highlight of the film for a lot of us would be seeing Douglas Jr in a film at the tender age of 15! He looked more mature than a 15 year old and had a beautiful head of hair!

Talk of Hollywood (2)

The next film was THE TALK OF HOLLYWOOD (1929), directed by Mark Sandrich, who up until this time was directing shorts except for the one silent feature length Runaway Girls (1928). Except for the familiar looking character actor Nat Carr, there were no other well-known performers.

Nat Carr and Fay Marbe

Nat Carr and Fay Marbe

It was a cute comedy about a Hollywood studio head J. Pierpont Ginsburg (Nat Carr) who, with Yiddish accent, declares that he’s going to make a big-budget musical using all of his savings to enter the world of talking film. He imports big-named French movie star Adoré Renée (Fay Marbe)—most obviously a play on then famous actress Renée Adorée—who trashes the French accent. The romantic lead for Miss Renée is the effeminate Reginald Whitlock (Gilbert Marbe—I couldn’t discover how or if these two were related, but I’m making an educated guess that they were).

Fay and Gilbert Marbe

Fay and Gilbert Marbe

There is all kinds of silliness, with at one point Ginsberg telling a black actor to say “pick-a-ninny”, a word he is sure is typical of what a coloured grandfather would say to his granddaughter.

Sherling Oliver

Sherling Oliver

His daughter Ruth (Hope Sutherland) is carrying on with Gentile lawyer John Applegate (Sherling Oliver) and he gets locked out of his own projection room when he attempts to speak to the projectionist who has mixed up the images with the wrong sound-disc reels while screening his masterpiece for prospective film buyers.

Hope Sutherland

Hope Sutherland

Some of Fay Marbe’s lines and her delivery using appropriate hand gestures made me think of a female Maurice Chevalier in his early musical films he made with Lubitsch, Mamoulian and Jeanette MacDonald, although it’s interesting to note that this film was made first. But Chevalier was already famous on stage, so who knows? Using a French accent, imagine such lines as, “No, no baby. Don’t do this to Mama”; you could just hear it coming out of Chevalier’s mouth.

Impressed with the looks of this actress, she stutters as soon as she opens her mouth--not going to make it into the Talkies

Impressed with the looks of this actress, she stutters as soon as she opens her mouth–not going to make it into the Talkies

The biggest joke which certainly the people in the film industry would have gotten at the time was that Ginsburg continued to spout Goldwynisms, unintended comical remarks and witticisms made by Samuel Goldlwyn which were then used by his studio to publicize his name.

Shopworn Angel (1)

After the dinner break, we came back to the first Nancy Carroll feature, the silent version of THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (1928), directed by Richard Wallace. Unfortunately the last reel is so far lost, so we were warned that we wouldn’t get to see the finish. But still we were just glad to see what was restored.

Shopworn Angel (6)

It’s the story of a naïve soldier, William Tyler—or Texas—(Gary Cooper) who falls for hardened show girl Daisy Heath (Nancy Carroll). Tex is always teased by the other soldiers that he’s Mister Goody-Two-Shoes. He’s so shy and so much of a loner that he refuses to join the other men on dates when they have a night out on the town, claiming he has already made his own plans.

Shopworn Angel (5)

So later, when he’s forced into a car by a well-meaning officer, he is reluctantly driven to his barracks by the very lovely, but impolite Daisy. When the fellows that originally asked him to accompany them earlier are standing there as he’s dropped off, they are totally impressed to see him descend from an expensive car with a beautiful dame in the back seat. Tex isn’t stupid, so he decides to do some fast talking, making it appear like this was his arranged date.

Shopworn Angel (8)

Tex has fallen in love. He goes through the charade of pretending that he really has something going with Daisy. When one of the men discover that the photo of her he has hanging on the wall over his bed is something he sent away for, costing 25 cents, the teasing heightens.

Shopworn Angel (9)

The guys decide to put Tex on the spot by driving him to the theatre where Daisy is performing, push him into the laneway that takes him to the backstage door, and tell him they’ll wait out there until he comes back out with Daisy. Luckily for him, since he’s never going to make it past the doorman, Daisy comes out and he confides to her his dilemma. She decides to help out the good-looking solider and plays along to the utter surprise of his bunk mates. So when she asks him where he’s taking her, he replies for a drink, and heads off to the closest soda shop. There he tells her his story, how he was orphaned at an early age, and you can see her heart melting.

Shopworn Angel (10)

Both these actors are quite visually stunning and it’s with absolute pleasure to watch them on screen. There’s one scene that particularly stood out for me, where Gary Cooper is lying on his cot in a white t-shirt, looking up at the photo of Daisy. The whiteness of his shirt, against his dark hair and eyes, was shot so strikingly that it (he) was a beauty to behold. I would have liked to have found a still of that shot.

This one will have to do.

This one will have to do.

When Daisy gets back from her little excursion at the soda counter, she joins the ongoing party by being led to her awaiting line up of drinks just to catch up with the crowd.

Lead me to the drinks!

Lead me to the drinks!

Bailey, her manager (Paul Lukas) is also her lover and he keeps her in the limelight as well as in jewels. For the most part, it is a satisfying relationship but you know there is no deep love there.

Shopworn Angel (2)

She goes on more dates with Tex, to Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty and other New York sites. When Bailey finds out, he becomes jealous and smashes her Statue of Liberty souvenir and tells Daisy not to see this soldier any more. She agrees but Tex calls on her anyway because he is worried. When she realizes he really loves her, she softens and goes off with him. The very last scene we see is him standing there stunned when the most beautiful and sexy vision in a white negligee glides towards him. You could hear the “aww” of the audience when the film abruptly ended there.

Shopworn Angel (3)

We were told what was on the missing reels. They spend the night together, then go off to get married but she faints, interrupting the wedding and he’s pulled away before the ceremony is completed. She decides to change her ways, giving up her life with Lucas who accepts her choice. There are visions of Tex’s death while Daisy sings the theme song, “A Precious Little Thing Called Love.”

Million Dollar Ransom (5)

The next film was MILLION DOLLAR RANSOM (1934), directed by Murray Roth with Phillips Holmes, Edward Arnold, Mary Carlisle and Andy Devine, story by Damon Runyon.

Million Dollar Ransom (1)

It’s the story of a young man, Stanton Casserly (Phillips Holmes) who to stop his mother, Elita (Marjorie Gateson), from marrying a younger man whom he believes is really only interested in her money, comes up with a complicated fake kidnapping scheme to stall the nuptials. He hires ex-con Vincent Shelton (Edward Arnold) to organize the scheme for him, working out the financial details. So that his mother won’t sail on the cruise ship to England to meet her paramour and to tie up her funds, the fake kidnapping is arranged immediately.

Million Dollar Ransom (4)

The original meeting of Stanton and Shelton takes place at the Angle club, and all the sets, including chairs and tables are built and shot on angles. As the story progresses, we are led to understand that this indicates that everyone is working on one angle or another throughout the story. Vincent has a long-time and much younger girlfriend, Babe (Wini Shaw) (who apparently isn’t with him for his money—she really loves him) and, one of her dresses with its neck-line ruffles, is styled and shot on angles as well. While the allegedly kidnapped Stanton is relaxing at Shelton’s country home, he meets his daughter Francesca (Mary Carlisle) and, you guessed it, a romance begins.

The dress from the back

The dress from the back

But when Shelton’s old gang hears that he’s involved in a new scheme solo, they decide to muscle in for their cut, not realizing that the whole thing is a sham. Andy Devine plays Shelton’s driver and assistant, Careful, and unfortunately he doesn’t live up to his name when he becomes the saddest casualty in the story.

Million Dollar Ransom (3)

When the story ends, I couldn’t help thinking that the whole thing, and Careful’s life, would have all worked out for the best without the whole kidnapping scheme as Elita’s “fiancé” was already married several times and would have been picked up for bigamy by the time she reached England.

Love Me Tonight (5)

The last film of the evening was LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932), directed by Rouben Mamoulian with the delightful cast of Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Charlie Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, Myrna Loy, C. Aubrey Smith, Elizabeth Patterson and Blanche Frederici.

The story of a Parisian tailor, Maurice (Chevalier), who is compelled by his aristocratic but penniless client the Viscount Gilbert de Varèze (Charlie Ruggles) to pose as a Baron when he comes to collect his payment of beautifully made suits. Maurice has already had a short accidental meeting with Princess Jeanette (MacDonald) without knowing who she really is when he is reintroduced at the palace. Holding the purse strings is their uncle, the Duke d’Artelines (C. Aubrey Smith) who is unwilling to give the spendthrift and unambitious Gilbert any cash to fund his Riley way of life.

Love Me Tonight (8)

The film opens up with a wonderful scene where all is quiet, and slowly different sounds of the city awakening are introduced until there is a symphony of noises. This is where we meet Maurice, heading from his home to his tailor shop, greeting people in song, mainly his many woman lovers, married or not, along the way. In runs Gilbert in his underclothes, escaping the clutches of an irate husband who found him in the arms of his wife. Naturally, he needs to be refitted.

Once Maurice is situated at the palace, the relatives are strongly considering if he is a candidate for the hand of the Princess. Even her current admirer, the muddling, funny Count de Savignac (Charles Butterworth) grumpily has to agree that Maurice may be a better match. This is especially true since the Count, with flute in hand, while wooing the Princess on a ladder he is balancing on just outside her bedroom balcony, falls and “breaks his flute”.

C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Butterworth

C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Butterworth

There is the Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy) who doesn’t have that much of a role, and certainly nothing spicy, plays a mannequin with good comeback lines, mainly when she’s in conversation with the men.

Myrna Loy and Charles Ruggles

Myrna Loy and Charles Ruggles

The three aunts, reminding us at the beginning of the three sibyls in Macbeth, are played by Ethel Griffies, Blanche Friderici and the best of them all, Elizabeth Patterson. The scene that was the funniest for me was when they all go running out of the Princess’s bedroom into the great hall screeching and flapping when they discover that Maurice is only a tailor.

Love Me Tonight (1)

A lot of the dialogue is risqué with a double entendre twist. It’s always true in these types of stories that the hero will fall in love with the only woman who doesn’t seem to be interested in the least, doesn’t flirt and is rather cold in her demeanor to him. When the “Baron” encounters the Princess getting ready for the deer hunt, he becomes critical of her riding outfit which he claims is unflattering to her loveliness. He closes his eyes to think about what we assume are alterations, she asks what he’s doing, and he replies “I’m thinking of you without your clothes.” She immediately commands, “Open your eyes at once.” It’s definitely more humorous when you can see the whole delivery.

Maurice, being a commoner, you wonder how the romance will work between the two. But not to worry, the ending is such fun, with the Princess showing her wild and sporty side by pursuing the departing train on horseback. Let’s just say she risks her life in another theme of the weekend—the woman as hero—stopping the train in its tracks to get her man.

There were a number of films starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier which to my mind had more chemistry and flair than the films she did with Nelson Eddy. These others, directed by Lubitsch, were The Love Parade, One Hour With You and The Merry Widow and they were the first musicals I ever loved.

Love Me Tonight (4)

In the book Chevalier: The Films and Career of Maurice Chevalier by Gene Ringgold and DeWitt Bodeen (1973) there is a forward and an additional quote by Rouben Mamoulian who directed Chevalier in only this one film. I think what he had to say is worth repeating:

At 83, Maurice Chevalier was much too young to die. He still possessed an amazing amount of creative energy and a youth’s enthusiasm for his art.

He was born the year the Eiffel Tower was built, and like it he became the symbol of Paris. Unlike it, he could travel and sing. He appeared in films and in person in most countries of the world and was embraced by every nation as partly their own.

There are singers, actors, entertainers, but there is only one Chevalier. He is unique, and being unique, he is indestructible. As a performer, he was totally integrated and the whole of him was much bigger than the sum of his various talents. His stylized silhouette, the saucy angle of his straw hat, his smile, the way he moved, sang and talked was not only artistically perfect, but spiritually uplifting to young and old. He radiated optimism, good will and above all the joie de vivre that every human being longs for.

Yes, when I first knew him, these qualities seemed to belong only to Chevalier, the entertainer, not the man. This was forty years ago, when I directed him in LOVE ME TONIGHT.

I had never witnessed such a sharp schism in any performer before. He would come on the set, slouching, sit in a corner looking as unhappy and worried as a homeless orphan. When I called him to shoot the first song, I thought it would be a disaster. He shuffled to his position, drooping head, frowning, dejected. We started the camera, I said: “Action!” and then a complete transformation took place—there he was: happy, debonair, truly filled with that joy of living. The take was perfect. Then, as I said “Cut,” the light went out of him. He walked back to his corner like a tired man, looking hopelessly miserable, as before. Through LOVE ME TONIGHT we became very good friends. As a person, I found him insecure and old in spirit; yet, in a way, he was also like a schoolboy in need of affection, encouragement and friendship. Consciously or unconsciously, he seemed to hold the Hellenistic principle that friendship is superior to love.

The miracle of Chevalier to me, personally, was that through the forty years that followed the two natures in him, the performer and the man, became gradually integrated. As the years rolled by, he grew wiser in mind, yet truly younger at heart, fresher and gentler in spirit. Both as performer and man, he kept blossoming. He entertained generation after generation, he acted, he wrote books. The scope of his interests and enthusiasms grew wider with age.

One day shortly after I finished Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and everybody was happy about its prospects, I encountered Adolph Zukor on the lot. As you know, the executives of this ear were often far more persuasive actors than the players under contract to them. Zukor, with tears in his eyes, implored me to produce and direct a film with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. Both of them were under big salaried contracts to Paramount and, according to Zukor, the studio was on the brink of bankruptcy so it was imperative that stars like Chevalier and MacDonald be constantly used. I protested that I wasn’t the man for the job, that Lubitsch had done very well with these two players in the past, and suggested Mr. Zukor approach him. But Lubitsch was busy with other projects, Zukor said, and wouldn’t I please give it a try?

I promised to think about it, and the more I thought about it, the more interesting doing a light musical film became to me. But I couldn’t find a suitable property. And then at a party, while talking to Leopold Marchand, a European writer then working at Paramount, I learned that he had a slight story idea that might be attractive. It was only two pages long, but when I read it, I thought it had a kind of fairy tale romantic magic, and I asked the studio to buy it.

I then got Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to develop the songs for the film. You understand, all the songs were carefully planned, with the lyrics to advance the story line, and their place in the story itself designed before the writers of the screenplay were engaged. This is the way an original musical film should be developed, in my opinion, but it so seldom happens like this. When the screenwriters—Hoffenstein, Marion Jr., and Young—came on the picture it was their job to construct the scenes and bridge the dialog between the song numbers, so that the songs flowed from the action sequences and the actors didn’t stop and sing a song. It worked perfectly.

Only Chevalier was, in the beginning, disturbed. He approached me one day and said, “I understand you’re having story conferences on my next picture.” I told him yes, that was true, but I was first working with the song writers. He wondered why he wasn’t included in the discussions. Lubitsch, he said, always had him present at all pre-production meetings. I said that was all very well; that was the way Lubitsch worked; but Lubitsch wasn’t doing LOVE ME TONIGHT—I was, and I worked my way, and I especially didn’t want him on hand at story conferences. He was hurt and said he would complain to the front office. I told him to please do so, and I hadn’t wanted to do this picture and was only doing it as a great favor to Mr. Zukor, and would consider it a very special favor if he could get me taken off it.

Maurice, of course, didn’t go to the front office. He loved the script when it was shown to him, and was enchanted by all the Rodgers and Hart songs. LOVE ME TONIGHT turned out to be one of my happiest film productions, and I was delighted that it met with such critical and public favor when it was released. I’m even more pleased that now, over forty years later, young audiences in cinema classes and film groups are so entertained by it and that film critics all over the world, on judging it anew, hold it in such high esteem that it gets even better notices than it did originally.

And, of course, making LOVE ME TONIGHT brought me together with Maurice Chevalier—and we remained close friends all his life. That I especially cherish.

Dreaming of each other

Dreaming of each other

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Saturday, August 8 – Day 2
The morning began with the second Nancy Carroll film, THE DEVIL’S HOLIDAY, directed (and written) by Edmund Goulding, with Phillips Holmes, James Kirkwood, Hobart Bosworth, Ned Sparks, Paul Lukas and Zasu Pitts.

Devil's Holiday (5)

It’s 2:00 a.m. and Charlie Thorne (Ned Sparks) is enquiring at the hotel desk if Hallie Hobart (Nancy Carroll) is in her suite. She’s not, still out schmoozing for business and Charlie heads over to chat with the switchboard operator, Ethel (Zasu Pitts in her only scene). Drunken Monkey McConnell (Morgan Farley) is also looking for Hallie and so when she arrives she has her male business partner help her get into the elevator without being accosted.   Just prior to all this David Stone (Phillips Holmes) has checked in, taking over his brother’s reservation. (Whenever someone is checking in at the desk, the camera is set up behind the concierge desk, overlooking the grandness of the lobby.)

Devil's Holiday (2)

But Mike the elevator man, and not from the goodness of his heart, let Charlie wait in Hallie’s room for her. Before she can get him rid of him, he’s interested her in a new business deal, selling construction machines, and will give her 3% commission of the purchase price. She’s all business, a teetotaler to boot who claims she knows men too well to fall in love with any of them. Her main interest is making money and moving to Paris.

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Hallie’s day job is a manicurist and she’s directed by Charlie to work on (in more ways than one) David. They’re interrupted when invited to dinner by Charlie’s business rival Kent Carr (Jed Prouty), bluntly asking David what type of woman he’d like to be set up with. Hallie acts insulted by the conversation, and straight-laced David awkwardly dismisses Kent. Instead, he asks Hallie out to dinner and she accepts.

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After their dinner, Hallie realizing that David is a sheltered country boy, has no problems manipulating him. She gets him to kiss her and then acts offended. Then she easily puts the thought of “love” in his head. So when David’s brother Mark (James Kirkwood) puts a stop to the purchase and heads into town to “save” his brother from the conniving Hallie, she is disappointed but immediately puts on the charm. Mark talks to her like she’s a cheap woman of the streets and she is disgusted. Yes, she has used her wiles to hook David but she’s no different than the men who are trying to win the Stones’ money by hook or by crook. They are just outmaneuvered because they can’t personally match her sex appeal.

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Nancy Carroll, Ned Sparks and James Kirkwood

Instead, a distraught David sends his brother packing and heads to Hallie’s room to declare his love and ask for her hand in marriage. She, in turn, is more upset by Mark’s insults than taken with David’s devotion. When Charlie stops by, she dismisses David and Charlie spurs her on to get revenge by accepting David’s proposal.

Ezra Stone (Hobart Bosworth) insists he will not talk business with Carr due to it being the Lord’s Day, although Carr attempts to introduce it at any opportunity. David and Hallie arrive and we learn they have been married. She’s quite nervous to meet his family knowing what they think about her. David notices her state of mind but doesn’t understand the reason for it. His father and brother discuss Hallie amongst themselves, with Mark wanting to pay her off and his father willing to meet her and give her a chance (or does he?) She knows she’s going to be judged and her demeanor has gone into defensive mode—nervous, querulous and jumpy. David, with his romantic nature and so in love with her, doesn’t understand and to no avail tries to woo her back into being her confident self.

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But as soon as she heads into the main part of the house, she greets Carr and the Stone’s foreman Hammond (Guy Oliver) cheerfully. She tries to be charming and talkative when she meets Ezra, but can’t get a friendly rise out of Mark. When Ezra takes her aside to talk with her, he comes right to the point, gently asking Hallie if she loves his son. She evades giving him a straight answer and finally admits that if the marriage doesn’t work out, she’ll leave him. Ezra explains how the Stones are one women men. She never actually says she doesn’t love David, but she works out a deal with Ezra to leave the marriage for $50,000. Everyone, including us who liked the vivacious and go-getting Hallie, are disappointed. What is she thinking? I like to think that she was so nervous, so put on the spot, felt such hostility that she just wanted to get herself out of her predicament.

Meanwhile, Mark is holding David back from entering the room where the discussion is going on. When he speaks disparagingly of Hallie, David furiously demands that Mark take back the bitter words, slaps him hard and Mark, losing it, literally throws David down the stairs. Crumpled up at the bottom, Ezra and Mark move him to the couch and we believe he’s dead. You can see they both blame Hallie for this incident and Ezra demands she leave the house for good. She runs.

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Back in business, Monkey explains to Charlie that Hallie has changed into more of a brooder, a spendthrift and partier. She doesn’t like to be alone. He wants to marry her, but knows there’s something troubling her and wants Charlie to speak to her to find out what it is.

Charlie enters the going-away party where we learn that Hallie is leaving for Paris the next morning. He also notices that she’s no longer a teetotaler. Just as they’re beginning to have a private conversation, she’s informed that Mr. Stone has called for her. She asks that he be sent away and when Charlie mentions that the champagne is dead, she only hears the “dead” word and freaks out a little.

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However, Ezra comes up anyway, demanding to speak to her alone. She keeps Charlie and Monkey close at hand and Ezra leaves in a huff. Charlie pins the nail on the head by telling her she really loved David all along. She sends him out to the party and stays in her room brooding.

We learn that David is alive and the only one he believes understands his feelings for Hallie is Dr. Reynolds (Paul Lukas). Mark is still obsessed with hating Hallie and we think maybe he needs to see a doctor himself. We learn it was Dr. Reynolds who sent Ezra to bring Hallie back, and when we hear the train pull into the station, the doctor informs David that she’ll be walking into the house any moment. With David on the edge of his nerves, Ezra walks in, and as we know, empty handed. Dr. Reynolds is not happy and lies, telling David Ezra just missed her heading off Paris.

David is shown as an innocent, almost corny person, and he really doesn’t seem to be a match for the much worldlier Hallie. They’re both cerebral but in totally different ways. However instead of taking the ship to Paris, Hallie shows up and is badgered immediately to leave by Ezra. He’s such an intolerant old man, quick to judge. Just as she’s about to tell him her true feelings about his son, David walks into the room. You can tell right away that she loves him but when he asks if she took money to leave him, she admits it and he collapses. They all go rushing up to his room, trying to keep her away, but she manages to scoot by. These men, including the doctor, want her to leave, even after she’s returned all the money.

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All ends up well of course, but I decided it’s actually a psychological drama. Hallie is trying to get ahead in a man’s world and she’s succeeding. When David comes along she meets a sweet, decent but naïve young man who is very romantic. His family is against her before they even meet her and she fights them by living up to their expectations before she chooses to follow her heart. In an interesting way, it could work out. Men appear to be looking for that sweet, innocent, loving young woman to settle down with. In this film, the tables are turned.

It was interesting for me to see James Kirkwood.  He directed 80 films between the years of 1911 to 1919 and acted in hundreds of others before, during and after his directing career came to an end. I read about him in conjunction with Mary Pickford and his relationship with her, personal and film-wise.

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The next film was CROOKED STREETS (1920) directed by Paul Powell, with a ten-years younger Jack Holt (with regard to yesterday’s THE BORDER LEGION) and Ethel Clayton.

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GManfred, who attended Capitolfest, wrote on IMDb:

“Gail Ellis (Ethel Clayton) applies for a job as a secretary for an antique collector. She gets the job shortly before his planned trip to China with his wife and grown son, specifically to Shanghai to purchase Oriental antiques. Upon arrival they are cautioned not to go out alone in this sinful city; things may happen, none of them good. Guess what? You are right. Out she goes to see the sights and comes across Jack Holt, an American who seems right at home in teeming Shanghai.

Things go badly on her sightseeing excursion. The rickshaw driver brings her to the ‘sinful’ part of town and she is beset by a host of Chinese undesirables. A group of French sailors on leave decide to make sport of her, until Jack Holt comes to the rescue. He fights a bout with the French fleet champion boxer and wins. She is free. They then join forces – he is with the U.S. Secret Service, and she with the British Secret Service – and together they bust a notorious opium dealer – her employers! Of course, they marry and are presumably happy ever after. The picture starts off slowly but picks up steam upon arrival in China. I thought the set design was remarkable and resembled Shanghai as I would imagine it, including the thousands of extras to crowd city streets filled with packed-in stores and tenements. The ending was a surprise as the two revealed their true identities as the story was coming to a close.”

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The third film of the morning was SKINNER STEPS OUT (1929), directed by William James Craft with Glenn Tryon and Merna Kennedy. It’s a comedy about a young married man, William Henry Skinner (Glenn Tryon), who dreams of getting a raise at work so he and his wife, Honey (Merna Kennedy) can afford a bigger and better life. She pep-talks him into walking into his boss’s office and demand a raise, but at the last minute of the day he chickens out. He is going to tell Honey after his second try, but when he overhears her talking on the phone, he lies and tells her it’s a done deal. She treats him like a king and, liking this treatment so much, he goes on with the charade.

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There’s a couple of comedic scenes where they compete with their neighbours—imagine they’re the Joneses—played by Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson and Edna Marion. Tiny is showing off his new model car while Skinner can’t even get his old hunk of junk started. Blocking Skinner’s exit, Tiny jumps out, and show’s him and their wives just how starting a car is done. When he’s accomplished this feat, he jumps back into his new vehicle only to discover it won’t start and it has to be moved out of the way to get the now-running car and Skinner on his path to work.

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Skinner eventually does ask his boss for a raise, but it doesn’t go smoothly in the least. His boss barely knows he exists and certainly isn’t about to raise his salary.   But as these stories go, you know all will turn out right in the end.

Having seen what I heard was the same presentation back at Cinefest in March, I skipped The Dawn of Technicolor to go back to my room for some much needed sleep as I didn’t want to miss a moment of the next film.

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It was the third Nancy Carroll film of the festival, FOLLOW THRU (1930), a two-strip Technicolor extravaganza, directed by Lloyd Corrigan and Laurence Schwab, with Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, Jack Haley (yes, he’s the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz), Eugene Pallette and Thelma Todd.

This film was a delight to the eyes. The two-strip Technicolor was dazzling and when we first lay our eyes on Nancy Carroll’s lovely face, you could hear the audience’s collective “oohs and awes”. Colour like that is unreal in the real world; it’s utterly vivid and breathtaking.

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Mac Moore (Claude King) is a golf nut and when his wife gives birth to a baby girl, he begins the lessons at the crib. Lora (Nancy Carroll) grows up to be the champion female player at their country club and is competing against a rival club’s champion, Ruth Van Horn (Thelma Todd). Many males, including Lora’s younger brother Dinty (Don Tompkins) is smitten with Ruth, and he has no qualms cheering his sister’s rival on to the win.

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Along comes gold pro Jerry Downes (Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers), looking extra-handsome in Technicolor and who, after catching a glimpse of her, is willing to offer Lora some private professional instruction.

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Lora’s best and most fun friend is Angie Howard (Zelma O’Neal) and she’s interested in meeting Jerry’s disturbingly weird friend Jack Martin (Jack Haley).

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Zelma O’Neal in I Want To Be Bad

Jack has a problem with girls. They make him twitch in a rather creepy and revolting manner. Kind of like a dog who’s trying to scratch himself but minus the paws. Although it’s an unpleasant movement, it’s also one that we watch with unblinking eyes each time he does it, and he does it a lot. After a while, to me, it became funnier and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to end up with a person with this particular mannerism.

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As it turns out though, in the side-story of Angie and Jack, apparently they had met at some drunken masquerade party in the past and Jack had bestowed his mother’s valuable engagement ring on her ring finger. She has worn it all this time, neither of them knowing who the other is, and he’s the first to discover that she’s “that girl”. He yearns to retrieve it.

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In the most ridiculous but rather funny scene, he and J.C. Effingham (Eugene Pallette) pretend they are plumbers so they can enter the empty women’s locker room. They work together on “fixing” a shower but as the locker room fills with women who immediately begin to undress, they “hide” on top of the lockers as if no one would notice. And no one notices. In fact, no one even hears any of their asides. Angie takes off her ring to take a shower and Jack, lying just above her locker, reaches in to take it back. Fait accompli. The locker room clears, and they make their escape.

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There’s some jealous mix ups among Jerry, Lora and Ruth, but all works out the way you might expect.

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Liberty Magazine (found in The Films of Nancy Carroll by Paul Nemcek [1969]) wrote:

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“Paramount is still following the policy of having more than one director on a picture. This one, however, hardly justifies the double effort. It is a fairly good musical comedy, but in transporting it to the screen some of its zest has been lost. It was one of the best of the musical pieces on the Broadway stage last year.”

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The makeup, for both boys and girls, was a sight to behold, whether you thought it good or bad. There’s are musical numbers sung by Haley and O’Neal and pretty much all of the golf dialogue is a sexual metaphor. My professional opinion is that on first-time viewing at least, this film is really, really a lot of fun!!!

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After the dinner break, the first film following the short Dumb-Belles (1927) was RAMONA (1928), directed by Edwin Carewe, with Dolores del Rio and Warner Baxter.

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Ramona is adopted into a well-to-do family and when she has returned after three years in a convent, her step-brother is more than thrilled to see her. They play together in the same fashion they did as children, rumbling and leap-frogging together. But Felipe (Roland Drew) is noticeably in love with his younger step-sister Ramona (Dolores Del Rio).

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I am not totally naïve enough to believe this may not happen in a family, but on the other hand when two people grow up together from small children onwards, I wonder how “in love” they can be since they know all the nitty-gritty details of their lives. Loving, yes, but in love—I just don’t see it. Even if it is Dolores del Rio.

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However, Ramona doesn’t feel the same way about Felipe, thank goodness, just in the former way, loving him as a brother. And Felipe is weak when it comes to defending Ramona against his mother, Senora Moreno (Vera Lewis). As much as she dotes on her son, she has nothing but distaste and a sadistic enjoyment of punishing Ramona for any slight she imagines the compassionate girl inflicts, using the excuse that Ramona is constantly disrespectful towards her.

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Felipe is a songwriter and plays on his guitar while Ramona dances. Another thing their mother hates to see.

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Along comes the Native Indian Alessandro (Warner Baxter) who is constantly seeking out Father Salvierderra (John T. Prince) to be blessed in the Christian faith. He and Ramona meet, fall in love and you can only imagine the trouble she gets into when her mother just happens to stumble across them together while she just happens to be taking a stroll through the woods. When they declare that they want to get married, her wicked step-mother absolutely forbids it.

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And here’s where we learn about Ramona’s true heritage—her mother was a Native Indian! (I think her father was Senora Moreno’s brother, but don’t quote me on that.) This is all told to her by her adoptive mother, who has a nasty, wicked sneer on her face. Senora Moreno attempts to entice Ramona not to marry Alessandro by showing her all the jewels she’ll give to her if she marries a man not “beneath” her. Otherwise those jewels go to the convent. But of course, Ramona foregoes the jewels, and understanding now that she is part Native, goes off to marry Alessandro. They eventually have a daughter together.

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Unfortunately, here’s where I drifted off and missed the most exciting part of the story. Her daughter becomes ill and when the doctor won’t treat her because of her Native status, she dies.

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Then there is a horrible massacre but she loses her husband, not in the carnage, but when he is deliberately murdered afterwards for “stealing” a horse, which he had actually “borrowed” and was about to return. I drifted back in just to see him die.

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Ramona falls into a comatose state and is taken back into the bosom of her adopted family and loving servants, looking like Snow White who only needs a kiss to be awakened. But what brings her back to life is the musical talents of Felipe. She hears a song that brings her back to consciousness and she dances her way back into life.

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The last film of the evening was SILENCE (1931), directed by Louis J. Gasnier and Max Marcin, with Clive Brook, Marjorie Rambeau, Peggy Shannon and Charles Starrett. Having discovered Peggy Shannon just this year at Cinefest, as tired as I was, I was looking forward to seeing her in this film, especially because she was to play a dual role.

SILENCE, US lobbycard, from left: Marjorie Rambeau, Clive Brook, 1931

Here’s what Kidboots wrote on IMBD:

SILENCE was Peggy Shannon’s third film. She had been signed by Paramount after Clara Bow had had to pull out of a couple of films due to health reasons – one was “City Streets”, Sylvia Sidney was given that one, the other was “The Secret Call” and Peggy impressed with the way she handled the role of the revengeful telephonist after only just arriving in Hollywood. “Silence” was another “replacement” job, Mary Brian was the original choice but Peggy picked up the moniker “The Typical New American Girl” during the film’s publicity. She wasn’t the star of the film, that belonged to Clive Brook and he gave a masterful performance as the Cockney crook awaiting the gallows as the prison band rehearses “When I Take My Sugar to Tea”. Most people feel he is protecting someone – but who?

MARJORIE RAMBEAU & CLIVE BROOK SILENCE (1931)

His life has been spent in and out of prison and his stint in 1912 sees him released to the tidings that Norma (Peggy Shannon) the girl he loves has been pinched for receiving stolen money. Warren is desperate to help her and Molly (Marjorie Rambeau) is the only person who is willing to speak up for the girl. She exacts a terrible promise from Jim – he must marry her in return for her help. The upshot is that when everything is put right he can’t go through with the wedding and rushes to Norma’s side to do the right thing by her (she is having his baby) – only to find she has already married Phil Powers (Willard Robertson)!!

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Jump to 1931 and a down and out Warren has a “shell game” booth at a local county fair. One of his curious customers is a beautiful girl, Norma (again Peggy Shannon), who, he soon realises, is his daughter. Also with him is bad egg Harry Silvers (John Wray) who gets his hands on some sensational letters that Jim has carried around with him all these years – and is determined to blackmail Powers with them. In an unusual twist Powers and Warren unite to keep Norma from scandal so that her marriage to blue blood Arthur Lawrence (Charles Starrett) can still go ahead. Silvers gets threatening, a shot rings out and suddenly Warren is in the condemned cell.

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Written by Max Marcin who had penned the original play as well as the 1926 Cecil B. DeMille production which starred Vera Reynolds. Virginia Pearson (one of the early vamps) played Molly and she featured well down the cast. For all her 2nd billing Marjorie Rambeau didn’t have a lot to do – maybe her name was used as “box office bait”!! Once the wedding was called off she was out of the picture and the movie really belonged to Clive Brook. Seeing him in this movie you can’t really wonder at his popularity in those early talkie years!! Very Recommended.

That ended Day 2. Stay tuned for Day 3.

Sunday, August 9 – Day 3
It’s the last day of Capitolfest and the morning began with the fourth Nancy Carroll feature, ILLUSION (1929), directed by Lothar Mendes, with ‘Buddy’ Rogers, June Collyer, Kay Francis, Regis Toomey and Lillian Roth.

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Lothar Mendes was the director of some rather interesting and sometimes unusual films [The Four Feathers (1929), Dangerous Curves (1929), Ladies Man (1930), Personal Maid (1931), Payment Deferred (1932), Luxury Liner (1933), The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936) and his last film, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1946)]. His career began in Germany, the country of his birth, making films in Hollywood between 1926 and 1933. Also interesting to note that he was married at one time to Dorothy Mackaill who herself married twice more.

The story of ILLUSION was rather basic; the devil is in the details. It’s about two performers who have known each other all their young lives. Claire Jernigan (Nancy Carroll) and Carlee Thorpe (Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers) have a magic act which is starting to get more notice and bookings. Claire is in love with Carlee but although Carlee cares for Claire, he’s too busy becoming a man about town. He’s got something going with the sophisticated and gorgeous Zelda Paxton (Kay Francis) who steers him towards high society, sort of on the verge of gigolo-dom.   Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of Kay Francis’s role. Except for a brief party appearance, she’s gone from the film.

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Carlee is also disappointing Claire by cancelling engagements because he’d rather mingle with the rich. The main party that Zelda has introduced him to are the nouveau riche Schmittlaps, who, before the head of the clan made his millions, was a truck-driver. As we learn, the family are considered crude (which they are not) and seem never to be able to live this down.

What my table looks like when I have people over for film nights

What my table looks like when I have people over for film nights

Hilda Schmittlap (June Collyer) and Carlee fall for each other and he doesn’t dissuade her of the notion that he is also wealthy, coming from a long line of illustrious ancestors. Being an illusionist, I suppose, he’s good a weaving tales.

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While at a big party that the Schmittlaps are throwing, who should be the entertainer for the evening but Claire. When Hilda’s brother Eric (Regis Toomey) takes a shine to Claire, Carlee makes a point of protecting Claire from this playboy. Claire really isn’t interested, but what’s a poor girl to do when the man she loves has proposed to another woman (Hilda).

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There’s some great costumes and performances. At one point, a group of female performers dress up, half female, half male, one side in black, the other in white. Lillian Roth is on hand to do her “Revolutionary Rhythm Dance Speciality”. I just like that girl.

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One of the lines that stuck out for me was when Eric asking the “clairvoyant” Claire if she can read his mind. She says something inane, and when he is physically touching her, he asks her if she can read his mind now. She replies with, “Ask me something harder.”

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There were some cameo appearances by two of Carroll’s frequent co-stars, Phillips Holmes and Paul Lukas. Holmes never had any dialogue, was just sitting in the audience with Eric watching the show. Paul Lukas played some hoity-toity count who was a guest at one of the parties.

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The climax of the story is what happens when Claire performs a rifle-shooting stunt without Carlee as her partner. She’s despondent and feels she has nothing now to live for. So instead of replacing the real bullets in the rifle with dummies, she leaves the real ones in place. Carlee notices this from the sidelines but doesn’t reach her in time when one of the randomly picked audience members shoots at her. Does he miss or doesn’t he? And who ends up with who at the finale. You may guess one out of two of these answers.

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A contemporary Photoplay critique:

“Nancy Carroll is excellent, but Buddy Rogers as a man about town is not that Sonny Boy type so beloved by the fans. He may prove disappointing to the girls. Buddy, as a magician who crashes society, is said by the other characters to be clever but not a single line proves it. And if you can discover what Kay Francis is supposed to be, we’ll mail you a prize. Interesting in spots.”

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Next was BLUE JEANS (1917), directed by John H. Collins, with Viola Dana. The thing you notice most about June (Viola Dana) is her eyes. The film is in black and white of course, but you see blue, clear and sincere. When we meet June she is a starving waif, almost on the brink of adulthood, having escaped from the poorhouse, and she’s attempting to practically steal the food out of Perry Bascom’s mouth (Robert Walker). At first he’s not sympathetic, but when she tells him the story of her dismal life, he feels for her and is more than willing to share. He’s come to the small town to take charge of the sawmills which were originally managed by a family friend, Colonel Henry Clay Risener (Henry Hallam).

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Perry gets June situated into a home in town. There seems to be good rapport between June and the elderly Tutwilers, Jacob (Russell Simpson) and Cindy (Margaret McWade). We learn they once had a daughter but something bad happened to her.

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The authority figures in the vicinity, policemen in particular, are rather brutal in their approach to homeless people, going so far as to almost strangle poor June and physically toss an elderly man trying to steal a plant from a flower bed. There’s the bully Ben Boone (Clifford Bruce) who is the most dishonest would-be politician around running as a Democrat. When he literally lifts June off of her bicycle while she’s unobtrusively riding by, Perry decides to run against him as a Republican. There’s all kind of odd scenes, such as when men hearing the squabble that comes when Boone lifts June from the moving bike, (as if that’s not odd enough), they all fall out of the window rather than using the door of the house. Huh?

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As the romance blossoms between June and Perry, we learn that the latter is actually a married man. How is this possible? I don’t remember all the details, but apparently the woman he married was already married, so that helps solve that one problem. But there are more.

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When the Tutwiler’s refuse to give their permission for June to marry Perry, she defies them, gets pregnant and they ban her from their home. It seems they haven’t learned their lesson since, it turns out, this is what they did to their daughter when she found herself in the same situation. And guess what became of her and her daughter?! Yes, they’ve just kicked out their flesh and blood granddaughter who’s carrying their great-grandchild! You’d think they would learn that just mourning the loss of their loved one after the fact doesn’t cut it.

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There’s a thrilling scene where our hero is tied up and put on the slowly moving track leading to the saw! Will he be saved in the nick of time, and by whom? It’s refreshing to see the tables turned back in 1917.

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This really was a wonderful, exciting film which was based on Joseph Arthur’s play, which opened in New York October 1890.

After the lunch break we returned to see the last Nancy Carroll film UNDER-COVER MAN (1932), directed by James Flood, with George Raft, Roscoe Karns and a solid role featuring Noel Francis.

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One of the things I love in early 30s films is the architecture and art detail in the film. It opens with a look at the city, and when it takes us into a building, the floor is curved and lined, like a race track. Not ordinary in the least.

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A newsboy tells us there’s been another bond heist and then we’re taken to the offices of Talbot & Gillespie, Investment Stockbrokers. Kenneth Mason (Lew Cody) has come to talk to business friend Gillespie (Leyland Hodgson) about, amongst other things, how he’d like to get rid of latest girlfriend Connie (Noel Francis) who’s hanging like an albatross around his neck. In comes Jimmie Madigan (William Janney) whose job is to run large sums of bonds and such from one office to another. While Gillespie is taking a call, Jimmie is telling Mason how he’s never spotted as a bonds’ runner and shows him how his specially-made coat has lots of trick compartments. “Uh, oh”, is all we can say.

Mason offers Jimmie a lift to his destination, Chemical National, and he accepts. And with a sinking stomach, we watch the kid meet his untimely death by a small but deadly pen knife at Mason’s hand.

Mason calls Martoff (Gregory Ratoff), his partner in crime, to let him know he has the goods and that they must immediately be sold on the black market. When fence Sam Dorse (Paul Porcasi) refuses to touch the bonds, saying they’re too hot due to the death of Jimmie, lots of name-calling ensues, ending with Dorse’s death by gunshot.

Enter bad boy Nick Darrow (George Raft). He talks to Inspector Conklin (David Landau) on going undercover to find out who killed his father, Sam Dorse. While in the middle of that conversation, Lora Madigan, Jimmie’s sister, shows up all distraught that nothing has been uncovered with regards to his murder. Darrow overhears the conversation and Lora is kindly sent on her way home. Conklin relents but lets Nick know that being an undercover agent means that there’s no one who will save your skin if you find yourself in trouble. His way in is with a letter of introduction Conklin took off of a petty thief they’re holding to a bigger criminal, Patty Kilbane (Jack Kennedy) introducing him to Martoff.

As petty thief Ollie Snell, Nick brings the letter and a bond scheme to hook Martoff. Martoff tells him to come back in an hour while they both check up on things, Martoff with Mason and Kilbane, Darrow with Conklin with regard to Mason who he noticed leaving Martoff’s office while he was waiting for his appointment. Conklin lets him know that Mason’s “big on the ladies”. Nick returns and Martoff tells him the deal is on but first Nick is to go out on the town to the Padlock Club with his compliments. Since Martoff can’t make it, Nick suggests he brings a dame.

In pre-Code films it’s always of interest to see what ingenious way is designed for us to see the heroine in her lingerie. Lingerie-clad girls look like icing on a cake, smooth and creamy. Nick knows who he’s going to ask to be his “date”. While Lora is undressing, thinking of something else, there’s a knock on the door and she automatically says, “Come in.” That’s not something that I often do. Anyway, she asks him what he wants and he says he wants to “see her”. She says some other time, but when he mentions her brother, she heads behind a screen and refastens her robe. She listens to his proposal and the scheme begins. So as not to be connected as Jimmie’s sister, she’s going under a new name, living in a new place and will be known as “Nick’s woman”.

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At the Padlock Club, Nick and Lora are already seated when Mason and Connie arrive and led to their table which is next to theirs.

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Nick sends Lora to the ladies to “powder her nose”. While Mason talks to people he knows at another table, Connie asks Nick for a light and strikes up a conversation, then asks him to dance. Lora returns to find herself alone at her table, Mason returns to his and invites her to share a drink.

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The next step is an invitation to them and the crowd of four at the other table to continue partying in Mason’s rooms.

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Connie plays the piano, lustfully eyeing Nick while Lora looks at some rather odd “family photos” of Mason’s.

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Not sure what that’s all about except to portray Mason as one weird dude. When one of the women pass out, it’s time for her and the other three to leave. This leaves Connie to seduce Nick while Lora flirts with Mason. He makes her a bromo-seltzer to help her headache, spilling it all down the front of her dress. He kneels and begins patting her down with a hanky, with much attention to her lower region. Shadows draw our eye to that area of her anatomy for the rest that moment. When he tells her to write a cheque for the cost of the dress, she sits at his desk and takes out a pen. But it’s not a pen, but the pen-knife that just happens to be the instrument he used to kill her brother. When she flips it open, she knows exactly what it is. Even though she’s on the arm of Nick, but at Mason’s instructions of course, this is where Connie’s claws come out.

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Mason calls it a night (it’s after 4:30 a.m.) and sends them all on their way, reminding Lora about their lunch date the next day. But Connie is still in a party mood and suggests they head to Harlem with Nick agreeing. Lora admits being too tired and Nick secretly nudges her and suggests she should just call it a night. This brightens Connie up considerably.

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An early but still dark morning a drunk Connie is questioned over the phone by Mason, claiming that Nick has left. But there he is, in her living room and Connie is all over him. He treats her rather nastily, sending her on her derriere, throwing her his handkerchief so she can wipe the mascara that got into her eyes. Meanwhile Mason gets a call from his driver saying that he’s still waiting outside her apartment for Nick and no, he hasn’t left. “But she said she was in bed asleep! What? Never mind the wise cracks.” Mason hopes in a cab and quietly enters Connie’s apartment to overhear Nick say the most shockingly correct thing; that she’s Mason girl and he doesn’t want to overstep. She isn’t so flattering with regards to Mason and Nick advises her that she’d better be careful who she shoots her cockeyed mouth off to.

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She’s pretty frightened when she discovers Mason in her apartment. When he discovers Nick’s monogrammed hanky, he knows something phoney is up and is actually grateful for Connie’s two-timing.

When Nick and Lora discuss the night, they figure out that the pen-knife she discovered was most probably the one that killed Jimmie. He tells her she has to get the knife but when he realizes that may mean she will have to sleep with Mason, he tells her he’ll figure out another way to get it. Chivalry proves she’s more than just a dame to him. At the lunch date later that day, Mason tries to get more info about Nick and then invites Lora on a trip out to the coast. She reminds him in a flirty way that she’s a nice girl, but doesn’t completely dash his hopes.

Finally in comes Dannie (Roscoe Karns), invited to a meeting with Martoff and Mason, a set up to uncover who “Ollie Snell” really is. While Dannie and Martoff wait in another room, Nick is frisked, questioned about the letter of introduction from Patty, then confronted with the fact that they don’t think he is Snell. Lots of talk, Nick playing cool. Martoff has Nick read a letter he wrote for him to send to Conklin while he secretly records him. He places a call to Conklin, playing the recording.

While waiting for Conklin’s arrival, Mason, who has stepped out into the room with Dannie, play poker. The doorbell rings and Nick is instructed to open the door. Officer Flannagan (Robert Homans) shows up and asks if Nick wants to buy tickets for some policeman’s ball. It turns out this was a test to see if Snell is on the level, and by his response to the set up, he is. No one but the real guy could have played it so cool.

The doorbell rings again and their crony playing Flannagan comes in. The next phone call informs them that, what a fluke, Patty Kilbane is in the hotel lobby. Come on up, they say. Oops, now Nick is really in a jam since Kilbane knows him and Snell. When he doesn’t recognize Nick as Snell, he’s about to say something when a shot rings out and he falls dead to the floor. Martoff and Dannie run out into the hall to see who fired the shot and Nick starts on about how Patty was his best friend. There’s no one in the hall and now they have a body to get rid of.

Dannie, dressed as a chauffeur, returns. Nick is tense, trying to remain calm. They’re all to head down to California, with Lora accompanying Mason. Meanwhile she’s in conference with Conklin because she’s worried about Nick, not having heard from him when she knew she was supposed to. She is leaving for California at 4:00 on Nick’s advice and she’s not sure what her next step is supposed to be. Conklin tells her if she trusts Nick, to follow his advice but “watch her step” with the others. Off she goes.

The gang is going after their last heist before leaving town. Disguised as guards, hired thugs plan to rob the bonds brought by brinks-like trucks to a financial investment company housed in a high-rise. When the guards arrive, the fake guards follow them from their hiding spot in another office on the same floor and shoot to kill. An office door opens as a random secretary enters the hallway just as the robbery is taking place. She screams bloody murder. The getaway car takes off with them and the bonds. Martoff shows Nick his gun and tells him that when he loses his temper, he uses his gun. This is where he admits to Nick that he shot Sam Dorse, who we know was Nick’s father.

Mason picks up Lora who’s only partially packed and lying seductively on a divan. They’re awaiting Martoff, Ollie and the bonds.   When Dannie meets them to exchange cars, it’s only Nick who comes out with the suitcases saying that Martoff had met with an “accident.”

But Mason is lying to Lora that Ollie has been badly wounded in the heist. Lora becomes upset and that’s when she slips, saying Nick’s true name. She might as well go all the way by telling him who she really is. He tells her Nick is really fine and shuts her up in the bedroom, telling her if she comes out, Nick is cooked. When Dannie and Nick show up without Martoff, Mason tells Dannie that Nick is really an undercover, ordering him to kill Nick. They tussle and Mason pulls out his handy little friend, the pen-knife, but Lora has defied her orders, entering the room and warning Nick. With Nick now tussling with Mason, Dannie pulls out his gun on the three of them. Is this getting exciting or what?   And guess who walks in—Conklin and his men. How is that for added excitement! And the three of them learn that they were all Undercover Agents. When Dannie invites them to join him and his mother at the movies (honest, a running commentary throughout), Lora mouths “no” to Nick and Nick gives an emphatic “no” to Dannie. He gets their drift.

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Motion Pictures had this to say:

“Here is one of the best gangster pictures in a year filled with them. It is a distinct triumph for the scenario writer to have found a new angle from which to approach the underworld, that of the stool pigeon, the undercover man who risks his life to get evidence to convict the most slippery of all criminals, the gangster. As that unsung hero, George Raft, with his poker face and suave manner, is excellent…Nancy Carroll, as the girl who joins wits with him to get the murderers of her brother, lifts a routine part into a characterization. She’s on her way to stardom again…The situations with the continual menace of the gangster’s suspicion hanging over the two is tense from beginning to end with continual crises and hairbreadth escapes. You couldn’t buy more excitement for your money.”

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The next film was OH MARY, BE CAREFUL! (1921), directed by Arthur Ashley with Madge Kennedy. In the notes it tells us that the film was completed sometime in early 1918 but for some reason wasn’t released until 1921.

It’s the story of a young woman, Mary Meacham (Kennedy) who while in college, goes to live with her unmarried aunt, Myra Meacham (Marcia Harris). She’s a spinster for a reason; she doesn’t like or trust men. Aunt Myra is always devising ways for her niece to test the devotion of her male friends. But Mary is a happy-go-lucky sort and while her aunt is on holiday and out of the picture she asks a number of her friends to come visit, and most importantly to bring their brothers.

One of Mary's friends played by Marguerite Marsh

One of Mary’s friends played by Marguerite Marsh

Mary, being the sort of girl that takes many things literally, helps makes this film a light-hearted farce. And of course she finds romance in the end.

The last film of the festival was the very exciting THE DIXIE FLYER (1926) directed by Charles J. Hunt with Cullen Landis and Eva Novak. Alas, I loved this film, but after so many weeks, the details have faded.

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The gist of it was that ‘Sunrise’ Smith (Landis) and Rose Rapley (Novak) inadvertently team up to assist Rose’s father John Rapley (Ferdinand Munier), president of a railroad construction company, to find out who’s sabotaging the work from getting done. What makes this film such a treat is along with the usual intense fight scenes among the good and bad guys—which made me wonder how our hero Sunrise could still function after sustaining over-long and brutal beatings—Rose is the real heroine of the story! She can do most anything a man can do to save the day.

Eva Novak

Eva Novak

The ending was particularly cute. She wants her man, Sunrise, and thinking that she needs to balance being a tough cookie against being a damsel-in-distress she pretends to faint in his arms. But just for an instant because she can’t keep up the charade for more than that length of time, she lets him know she’s faking it and they both laugh at the fade out.

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That was the end of this yet again wonderful Capitolfest film festival! Thanks to all the people who make this weekend happen, including Art and Kylie Pierce, Jack Theakston and my good friend Douglas Swarthout of Berry Hill Book Shop.

An added thanks to Bernie Anderson, Dr. Philip Carli and Avery Tunningley who only make the silent films all the more entertaining with their talented organ accompaniment.

Looking forward to seeing everyone next year! Especially the guest star, Gary Cooper, in all his silent and talking glory.

Bloggers

Back row: Once Upon a Screen, Classic Movie Hub Blog, Caren, Spellbound.
Front row: Toronto Silent Film Couple, Nitrate Diva, Fussy@MiddParent, Outspoken and Freckled.

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August 8, 2014 – Day 1
I attended Capitolfest 12 in Rome, NY.  It was already three weeks ago but attending two film festivals in a row makes for lots of remembering so excuse me if I’m a wee bit off.

Capitolfest has a particular star that is showcased each year.  It was the talented and always enjoyable William Powell’s turn this year and we got to see him in his early career, 1923, 1928, 1929 and 1931.

Friday’s first film was PARTNERS OF THE SUNSET (1922), directed by Robert H. Townley, with Allene Ray, Robert Fraser, Mildred Bright and Jack W. Johnston.  It was a western, not my favourite genre, but this one interested me.

Allene Ray

Allene Ray

It was about two sisters, blonde and pretty Patricia Moreland (Allene Ray) and dark and plain Violet (Mildred Bright), who lived as socialites in the big city. They are close to becoming destitute when they are willed a ranch by, I believe, an uncle. Violet doesn’t want to leave her frivolous city life while Patricia is willing to give running the farm a good try. The will, again I believe, stipulated that they both had to live there together.

There’s an earnest young man, David Brooks (Robert Fraser) who helps them out and falls for the farm-loving Patricia. There’s also an unscrupulous wealthy landowner, Jim Worth (Jack W. Johnston) who wants to buy the land from these girls knowing something they don’t, that it may have oil. He almost woos our farm-loving heroine into marriage.

Robert Fraser

Robert Fraser

All’s well that ends well including Violet finding a man to settle down with.

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Next was DERELICT (1930), directed by Rowland V. Lee, with George Bancroft and Jessie Royce Landis.

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The story’s about seaman Bill Rafferty (George Bancroft) who fights his rival Jed Graves (William ‘Stage’ Boyd) over Havana saloon singer Helen Lorber (Jessie Royce Landis).

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Helen is trying to get to Rio, but Rafferty, who was just promoted to captain, and as it’s against the rules, won’t allow her on board ship. Graves sneaks her on anyway and let us just say when Bill finds out, these men become physical.

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But when Bill is fired from his job, he signs onto a banana boat to follow Jed and Helen to Rio.

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The highlight is when they’re all caught in a raging hurricane and Rafferty takes over command of the banana boat to help rescue the sinking ship that Helen is on.

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Who was Jessie Royce Landis?

Jesse Royce Landis

Jesse Royce Landis

Interestingly, she made her film debut in DERELICT, but then didn’t make another screen appearance until 1949. When I tell you she played the mothers in two of Hitchcock’s films, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest, I bet she will spring to life in your mind.

George Bancroft

George Bancroft

The next feature film (after three shorts) was the most amusing HORSE PLAY (1933), directed by Edward Sedgwick, with Slim Summerville, Andy Devine, Leila Hyams, May Beatty and Una O’Connor.

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I actually don’t remember the detail of the story but there were a lot of moments I found quite smile-invoking. Slim and Andy who are played by their own namesakes (Slim Summerville and Andy Devine) we’re teamed up in particular because Summerville mostly played as one part of a team in his early career.

For reasons I forget, they are looking out for the welfare of Angelica Wayne (Leila Hyams) who has headed off to England. They follow, and meet up with two older women, the Duchess (May Beatty) and Clementia (Una O’Connor) which rhymes with dementia.  In one scene the four of them get totally blitzed, and weirdly lovable, crazy Una is either riding an adult size rocking horse or is whipping either Andy or Slim while he’s riding it. I can only imagine what kind of sexual peccadilloes this leads to!

Una O'Connor

Una O’Connor

Then there is the scene where Slim and Andy decide to attend the party the Duchess and Clementia have invited them to, although I don’t think they actually remember being invited so believe they are crashing it only because Angelica is there.  It is held in a cave where everyone is dressed up as royalty from the late 1700s.

May Beatty

May Beatty

They are given dark clothes with long capes and hats.  We, the audience know that these are top hats but they are given them while still flat. So that’s how they wear them and of course it looks like they’re wearing pancakes on their heads. When they finally discover that these hats can pop up with a little tap, there’s a scene that truly must have been improvised, where they continue to slap at each other for a good couple of minutes, opening and closing them against the other’s body and head. It’s ridiculous—and funny; definitely acting like boys of 10!

David Torrence, Leila Hyams and Andy Devine

David Torrence, Leila Hyams and Andy Devine

Meanwhile Angelica has fallen for Philip Marley (Cornelius Keefe), handsome cad, who’s in cahoots with bad girl Iris (Lucille Lund).  Of course she is saved from their evil intentions by Slim and Andy and heads back to America with them.

Although others may find this film silly, comedies like this appeal to me more than most because I enjoy the absurdities that I may read into them.

After the dinner break and the short MARVELS OF MOTION (1926), we were shown our first William Powell film, THE BRIGHT SHAWL (1923), directed by John S. Robertson, with a most stellar cast!

Richard Barthelmess, and Edward G. Robinson (left) and Mary Astor (far right)

Richard Barthelmess, and Edward G. Robinson (left) and Mary Astor (far right)

Richard Barthelmess plays Charles Abbott, a wealthy adventurer in 1850s Cuba.  He is in love with Narcissa (17 year-old Mary Astor), the daughter of Domingo Escobar (30 year-old Edward G. Robinson made up to look 60) but goes after alluring La Clavel (Dorothy Gish) to obtain information on the Spanish.  William Powell plays the villainous Cuban Officer, Gaspar De Vaca.

Richard Barthelmess and William Powell

Richard Barthelmess and William Powell

This was William Powell’s fourth film and the earliest one shown on the weekend. He’s 31, so doesn’t look too different from the William Powell we know and love.

Richard Barthelmess started in films in 1916 and was still young, handsome and unhunched at the age of 28.

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This was Edward G. Robinson’s second film, his first being seven years earlier in 1916 and was billed as E.G. Robinson.  I felt excited to see him in such an early film!

Dorothy Gish, sister of Lillian, was 25 when she made this film but started in the business at the age of 14.  She would have made a couple of dozen at least before this one.

Dorothy Gish

Dorothy Gish

Mary Astor also started in the business at the age of 13 or 14 and this would have been her eighth feature film.

Next was William Powell’s latest film screened over the weekend, LADIES’ MAN, directed by Lothar Mendes, with Kay Francis and Carole Lombard. Jamie Darricott (Powell) is a gigolo.  When the film opens he’s just at the beginning of a new affair with an older married woman, Mrs. Fendley (Olive Tell) who, after their afternoon rendezvous, has invited him to her home later that evening as a dinner guest.

Kay Francis, William Powell and Carole Lombard

Kay Francis, William Powell and Carole Lombard

He lives at a ritzy hotel and the men working the cigarette and newspaper booths talk highly of him. On the way to the elevator, he passes a woman, giving her an appraising look up and down. Once he arrives at the penthouse level, he quickly looks around, then takes the stairs up to a small room in the staff’s quarters which he shares with his valet, Gene (Frank Atkinson).

After dinner at the house, we meet Mrs. Fendley’s husband Horace (Gilbert Emery), her son Anthony (Martin Burton), daughter Rachel (Carole Lombard) and Rachel’s boyfriend Peyton Walden (John Holland). The neglectful Horace once again disappoints his wife by heading off to his office with Anthony when she was expecting him to take her to the opera. This is where Jamie comes to the rescue. And while they banter in the taxi about heading off to the “opera”, she suggests that they head off to his rooms to be alone instead.  To avoid going there, he says he’s already lent them out to a friend. She says she knows where to take him to be alone and confides that she wants him as her committed and kept lover.  She begins by paying him with her jewels so that he can pawn them for cash.

William Powell, Carole Lombard and Martin Burton

William Powell, Carole Lombard and Martin Burton

One evening, expecting to meet Mrs. Fendley for dinner, Jamie is surprise when her Rachel shows up instead. She was supposed to call him to let him know her mother couldn’t make it, but as she’s developed quite a crush on him, she took this opportunity to be with him.

Olive Tell, William Powell and Carole Lombard

Olive Tell, William Powell and Carole Lombard

He can now afford to live in a much more posh suite, and that’s where jealous Rachel shows up to tell him that he and her mother are the talk of the town. Everyone knows but her father. But her ulterior motive is that she wants Jamie for herself–in marriage. He weighs this information and then advises her to be patient, but doesn’t go as far as to say he will end things with her mother.  Still Rachel leaves on a happy note.

Some time later, it’s after 10:00 p.m. and Rachel’s party is going full blast.  But there’s no Jamie, who, we find out, is deliberately planning to come late.  Rachel confronts her mother with the blunt fact that she should leave Jamie alone, that he’s not interested in her. Before her mother can answer Rachel back, she’s interrupted by Norma Page (Kay Francis) and her aunt Therese Blanton (Maude Turner Gordon) who have come to pay their respects as Norma must leave to get ready for her departure later the next day. As she exits onto the street, she encounters Jamie who’s just entering the building. She asks her aunt who he is.

Lovely Kay Francis in one of her lovely dresses

Lovely Kay Francis in one of her lovely dresses

Back upstairs, Anthony informs his mother that Jamie has arrived and that he will leave the party if he’s welcomed. Of course he is, and while Mrs. Fendley and Jamie appear calm, she questions him as to where and with whom he’s been.  Moments later, he gets the same from Rachel while her mother is standing right there. Once Rachel storms off, all is forgiven by Mrs. Fendley.

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The next day as Kay Francis is waiting in his hotel lobby, Jamie sees her and easily starts up a conversation. She admits to knowing who he and his reputation are, and he tries to convince her to miss her train so he can show her his New York after hours. After much convincing, he feels confident that they have agreed to meet at her hotel at 7:30 that evening.  But instead, she has left him a note saying that she is continuing with her own plans, and leaving on her scheduled train departure. Still with confidence, he heads over to Grand Central Station, but can’t see her as the conductor calls “all aboard”.  He’s deciding what his next step should be, when he finds her standing behind him. Off they go for their night tour of New York.

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He lets her know that he’s cancelled his date with his regular lady friend by having told her that he’s had to visit his sick aunt. When they run into Mrs. Fendley at one of the restaurants they’ve gone to, they show no embarrassment. But as they turn away, you see that Mrs. Fendley is pretty hurt.

William Powell and Olive Tell

William Powell and Olive Tell

When they show up at another nightclub later that night, they run into Rachel and Peyton who are both very, very intoxicated.  Carol Lombard plays a really convincing drunk, blather and all.  Jamie convinces Rachel that she needs to take Peyton home by implying that he, not she, is the one who’s too drunk.

Carole and William

Carole and William

It’s 5:00 a.m. and he’s finally invited Norma to his apartment to see the skyline at dawn. When they get there, his valet warns him that Rachel, still quite drunk, has been waiting for him.  She thought Jamie’s suggestion that she take Peyton home was really code for him telling her to get rid of him and come up to his place.  Norma, however, takes her in hand and leads her to the bedroom to put her to bed. As Rachel’s being led by her, she deliberately knocks over the picture of her mother which is on the dresser.

Norma’s still there when Rachel wakes up and threatens to kill herself if Jamie won’t marry her. She asked him straight out and when he says he won’t she kind of sobers up. Just then Anthony shows up, all righteous, but she sticks up for Jamie and Norma and they leave together.  Now it’s Norma’s turn to leave and she thanks him for a lovely time.

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They meet later in the day and discuss why he became a gigolo. After a long explanation, he admits that it was easy for him because women always liked him. But for the first time, he’s fallen in love and he’s willing to become an honest man for her.

Meanwhile, Horace, with the help of an investigator, has collected the jewels from pawnshop owner (Clarence Wilson). Just then, Rachel shows up at his office to tell him about the affair her mother is involved in. Horace claims he is positive that there is nothing between her mother and Jamie, that he’s only a chaperone who takes his wife out for social events when he’s not available. His only concern is that Rachel’s not in love with him.

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At the same time, Jamie is telling Norma that he’s going to end the relationship with Mrs. Fendley and repay her for everything she’s given him financially. But he still has to attend the Captain of the Potemkin costume ball that she’s been planning for weeks and is that very evening.

As Mrs. Fendley is dressing for the ball, Horace lets her know that he won’t be attending (par for the course) and then start asking her about her missing jewelry. She knows something is up and frantically contacts Jamie.

He calls Norma to come to him to tell her that there’s going to be a huge scandal once all this gets out, which is now bound to happen.  He’s worried that this will adversely affect Norma if she marries him.  Mrs. Fendley shows up and when Norma lets her know that they plan to marry, Mrs. Fendley says that there’s no way this can happen as he’s got to marry her when Horace divorces her, come hell or high water or she’ll kill him!  At that, Horace arrives and tells the women to leave. Horace takes out a gun and says he’s going to kill Jamie to spare his wife from doing the same. Jamie attempts to escape by turning off the lights when two shots go off and Jamie falls to the floor. When the lights go back on, Horace stands over Jamie’s body but lo and behold Jamie springs back up, disarms Horace and the physical fighting begins. They end up on the balcony with Horace, a bigger man, trying to push Jamie over the railing. I don’t know how exactly, especially if it’s from a way top of the building, but someone from the street below sees what’s going on and brings it to the attention of everyone standing there, including the police.

Ladies' Man (3)

This commotion has even disrupted the ball, but as Horace enters, he places the missing jewelry on his wife’s arm and announces he will lead the march.

So how does it end?  Does Jamie live or die?  Does Norma marry or lose her man?  All I can say is the clothes were fabulous, especially the outfits worn by the women.

The last film of the evening was ROMAN SCANDALS (1933), directed by Frank Tuttle, with Eddie Cantor, The Goldwyn Girls, Ruth Etting, Gloria Stuart, Edward Arnold and David Manners.

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Okay, I was pretty tired by the time this film was screened and I don’t really remember much of it although I stayed to the bitter end.  I don’t mean bitter because I didn’t like it, I just mean that I wish I hadn’t been in a daze.

The Goldwyn Girls

The Goldwyn Girls

I had recently watched Whoopee, Eddie Cantor’s very enjoyable 1930 film which included Busby Berkeley’s first-time dance sequences ever filmed and was looking forward to seeing ROMAN SCANDALS so closely afterward.  I think I might have seen it many years ago at TFS, but if so had no recollection of it.

David Manners and Eddie Cantor

David Manners and Eddie Cantor

I do remember thinking that it was very similar in set up to Whoopee—theme wise, joke wise (including Jewish humour), black-face wise and Busby Berkley wise.  It seems obvious that the audience of the day enjoyed the repetition of these elements, but I have recently been noticing that comedians, in particular (take Johnny Hines), use the same shtick but in a slightly different setting.

Gloria Stuart

Gloria Stuart

So all I’m going to say about it is that it featured a very young and beautiful Lucille Ball as one of the Goldwyn Girls.

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball

Stay tuned for Day 2.

August 9, 2014 – Day 2
The first film was THE CZAR OF BROADWAY (1930), directed by William James Craft, with John Wray, Betty Compson and John Harron.  Okay, I admit that I have no recollection of this film.  Maybe I slept through it.  I don’t even have any recollection of that.

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The story was about a reporter who is assigned to do a story on a notorious racketeer.  The character of Morton Bradstreet (John Wray) was loosely based around the Jewish American gangster Arnold Rothstein, who among other things was one of the conspirators in the 1919 “Black Sox” Scandal.  Rothstein failed to pay a debt in a rigged poker game, and was shot to death on November 4, 1928.

Betty Compson and John Harron

Betty Compson and John Harron

The next feature length film was one that I was definitely awake for.  HIGH TREASON (1929), directed by Maurice Elvey with Jameson Thomas, Benita Hume and Basil Gill.

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This first all-talking British story is set in the future.  It’s based on inventor/aviator/pacifist Noel Pemberton-Billing’s 1928 three-act play.  It was probably one of my favourite movies over the weekend.

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The film starts out at the border of the Atlantic States and Federated States of Europe. The guards on each side are quite aggressive towards each other and are keeping themselves amused by betting at cards. The Atlantic side accuses the European side of cheating and they immediately pull guns on each other.  They’re this close to starting a second world war when a car in the Atlantic States approaches the border.

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They are asked if they’re carrying any liquor, no is the answer, their papers are inspected and the gate goes up.  Now it’s the guards on the European side turn to ask questions, do see liquor in the car and with that pronouncement, the couple take off. The guards start shooting at them and then the one in the gatehouse throws a bomb and blows up the car which kills the two passengers. The European guard who threw the bomb is shot by the other side and it looks like the world war is in the making.

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Word goes out over the global wire and the world looks towards London to prevent a conflict as it houses the World League of Peace.  There are fabulous shots of a futuristic London and all its transportation devices that the Art Direction Department led by Andrew Mazzei envisioned.

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The Atlantic States men-of-war are watching and discussing the news on television. And heck, why not, they also discuss the bathing beauties popping up on the screen as well.

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Love story is between war commander Michael Deane (Jameson Thomas), son of President Stephen Deane (Basil Gill) and pacifist Evelyn Seymore (Benita Hume) daughter of renowned man-of-peace Dr. Seymour (Humberston Wright).   They talk to each other over what is Skype today.

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They go on dates dressed to kill.  But when it comes to their point of view on war and peace that’s where they are at odds.  What a surprise.

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There’s a scene where both men and women have gathered together in a foreboding-looking hall and when the women disobey orders, the men are told to pull their guns and shoot all the women if they don’t back down. You see them hesitate; the men can’t bring themselves to do this.

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In the end, it’s pacifist Dr. Seymour who brings death—and peace.  He must pay for his deed, the sacrifice he makes for the greater good.

High Treason (7)

Up until now, this film has been shown exclusively in its British silent version which pushes the action ten years forward to 1950.  The restoration the Library of Congress loaned Capitolfest for the weekend is the American sound version, which at 68-minutes, and runs almost half an hour shy of the original British sound version of 95-100 minutes.  One of the film’s versions (probably the silent) can be found on the website Loving the ClassicsHigh Treason (4)

There’s a nightclub scene with flashing lights and a DJ with platinum blonde hair who actually resembled 60s DJ, alleged child abuser Jimmy Savile .  It made wonder if he had seen this film and based his image on it.

High Treason (3)

I think it would make an interesting double bill with another futuristic war film entitled Men Must Fight (1933).  By the late 1920s, the world was aware that a second world war was bound to happen and from these types of futurist war films, they were guessing it would happen by the end of the decade.  If you have ever seen any of the Newsreels from the 30s, they make it very obvious.

After lunch, we watched a 10 minute short SCREEN SNAPSHOTS (1927), candid behind-the-scene films of famous stars such as Mary Astor, Donald Crisp, William Demarest, Phyllis Haver, Rod La Rocque and Franklin Pangborn, just to name the most well-known.

The second short, INCE STUDIO TOUR (1920) was a publicity film showing director/producer Thomas H. Ince at his home and studio.  Of course what makes this even more interesting is that Ince died aboard the yacht belonging to William Randolph Hearst with rumours that he had been shot  The official story was that he died of a heart attack but to this day, the truth of what really happened has never come out.

Following this was the first feature film MORALS (1921), directed by William D. Taylor, with May McAvoy.

May McAvoy

May McAvoy

Odd title for this movie.  It’s a story about a young Turkish woman, Carlotta, who, if I remember correctly, was adopted into the family of a man who has many wives and daughters.

Carlotta is a sweet, young teenager who loves to dance in standard Turkish attire and is also secretly seeing a young man that she’s not even supposed to know since she’s lives in an Islamic country and is otherwise living a totally sheltered life.

When her father decides it’s time for her to get married, he introduces her husband-to-be who’s old enough to be her grandfather. She recoils from the thought of having to marry this man and tells her friend her sad story and they decide to run away together to England.  But when they get there, the man is killed and she is left completely on her own with no idea what to do.  Totally destitute, she meets a wealthy man, Sir Marcus Ordeyne (William P. Carleton) who feels compassion for this waif and makes her his ward.

Kathlyn Williams

Kathlyn Williams

Ordeyne is an attractive but fading older man and when we first meet him, he’s visiting his platonic friend, Judith Mainwaring (Kathlyn Williams), a woman closer to his own age.  Although they appear to be good friends, we learn that she is in love with him and hopes that one day he’ll realize he’s in love with her and then would marry.

Meanwhile, Carlotta is living with him and it doesn’t take long before he can’t resist her cuteness. After all, she dances for him and is so naive and sweet he has to fall in love with her.

However, her stepfather has traced her to England and has comes to claim her. She refuses to go with him and in the end is saved by her benefactor.

William P. Carleton

William P. Carleton

Okay, so how is she saved?  It’s a dilemma for him; he battles it out with himself, but he finally comes to the conclusion that she’s the girl for him.  Not that different from what her father chose for her, just better preserved—oh, and we are meant to understand that she loves him too. Despite the fact that they have nothing in common, that he seems to have a much better relationship with Judith, it still stands reasonable that this very wealthy man, just on this side of decrepit, can have a young, pretty, cute girl who also lets us know that she will be happy to become his wife.

I guess the title of the film means that no one has any.  (Kind of.)

The short MEET MR. MISCHIEF (1947) was about an obnoxious man (Hary Von Zell) who plays practical jokes on his friends.  So with their help, his wife decides to play one on him. This is the kind of comedy that I don’t find particularly funny. Too sophomoric for sophisticated moi.

Meet Mr. Mischief

Next was the enjoyable STEADY COMPANY (1932), directed by Edward Ludwig, with Norman Foster, June Clyde, ZaSu Pitts, Henry Armetta and J. Farrell MacDonald.

The story begins with the chance meeting between Jim (Norman Foster) and Peggy (June Clyde).  She’s walking home with no umbrella in the pouring rain and he offers her a ride in his truck. At first she declines but then the heel on her shoe breaks, and with less reluctance, she accepts. Although it’s about three years into the Depression and he’s lucky to have a job, Jim lets Peggy know that his dream is to become a prizefighter.  When he drops her off at what he thinks is her home address, he’s confident he’s arranged a date with her for later that night. But once he drives away, we realize she has no intention of meeting him as she had him drop her off at a funeral home. She hobbles down the street to her true address, a room in a boarding house which she shares with her good friend and co-worker, Dot (ZaSu Pitts).

Norman Foster

Norman Foster

Meanwhile, Jim is getting spruced up for his date with Peggy. He lives with what he considers sort of an adoptive father figure, Tony (Henry Armetta) who, of all things, repairs shoes for a living. After Jim leaves for his date, Peggy shows up at Tony’s shop to have her heel repaired. They strike up a very friendly and sweet conversation and this inspires Tony to invite her for dinner one night to meet his young friend, which of course we know is Jim.

Jim comes back disappointed and feeling like a fool when Tony tells him about this lovely young woman who came to the shop. But Jim isn’t interested and decides to just stick to his plans of working out at the gym and becoming a boxing champion.

The evening arrives when Peggy comes to pick up her shoe and have dinner at Tony’s. It’s quite an amusing scene watching Tony carefully make his spaghetti dinner, apron and all. When Peggy and Jim finally meet the two are taken aback at first but end up being pleased that they have met again.

 June Clyde

June Clyde

Peggy and Dot work side by side as telephone operators at a hotel. One evening at work, the down-and-out but once famous prizefighter, Hogan (J. Farrell MacDonald), comes by and asks if he can please place a telephone call. He has no money and the young women feel such compassion for him that against policy and at the small risk of losing their jobs, they make the call for him. They overhear him ask, well actually beg, for work from his old manager. He claims he’s not drinking anymore but they can see by his shaky hands that that’s not true. It has to be one of the most touching moments in the film. And you can see it on the women’s faces.

The difficulty that Jim and Peggy have with their relationship is their different ideas with regard to Jim’s boxing.  She has seen what can happen to a man, as well as knows the chances of glory are slim.  But when Jim gets the chance for a professional fight, he chooses Tony to act as his manager. This is a comic but also tough scene because Tony knows absolutely nothing about boxing! Jim is actually winning the bout but Tony, who doesn’t understand the signals or their meanings, is tricked into literally throwing in the towel. This causes Jim to lose what would have been his win, but it’s hard for him to stay angry at Tony for more than a couple of minutes.

Henry Armetta

Henry Armetta

Others have been watching the fight and soon Jim has been scouted by men in the business, but who don’t necessarily have Jim’s best interest at heart.

Peggy and Jim break off their relationship. Jim’s next fight is with a very strong contestant and the people he’s involved with actually don’t want him to win. He doesn’t and when alone in the change room, we see him discouraged and heartbroken.

While at work, Dot and Peggy have been listening to the fight over the radio. Peggy is so perturbed about what has happened that, against her and Dot’s better judgment, she leaves her post seemingly not caring if she loses her job. Dot tries to make her stay by reminding her how hard jobs are to come by but to no avail.

ZaSu Pitts

ZaSu Pitts

The ending was rather interesting and unusual. The two reconcile but strangely she’s the one to convince Jim to go for his dream and continue to box. What’s unusual about that is, in reality his chances to become a champ are probably not all that great.  But maybe because this was a Depression Era story, audiences needed to see others try and reach for their dream.

After the dinner break, we saw the long short ROUND ABOUT CHICAGO (1929).  This was not to my taste.  I think it can be interesting to see old footage of many things, places and people but the camera lingered way, way too long on a street or a building or a zeppelin.  When I complained to my companion, he wondered if I would feel the same way if this was old Toronto.  Maybe not, but regardless, I felt the desire to see this churned up to music-video speed.

Next was probably the hit of the weekend, FORGOTTEN FACES (1928), directed by Victor Schertzinger, with Clive Brook, Mary Brian, Olga Baclanova and William Powell.

Heliotrope Harry Harlow (Clive Brook), a suave thief, and his partner Froggy (William Powell) enter an illegal gambling den in order to rob the house and patrons.  Heliotrope, who’s called this because he wears the tiny fragrant flower in his lapel, has every move timed down to the second, but as the pair are less than a block away, the police have already arrived.  They have escaped, but it’s too close a call and Heliotrope wonders how the police could have gotten there before anyone had the chance use a phone.

Olga Baclanova and Clive Brook

Olga Baclanova and Clive Brook

But while the robbery is in progress, Heliotrope’s wife, Lilly (Olga Baclanova), is at their apartment, supposedly taking care of their infant daughter.  Instead, the baby is bawling her eyes out and Lilly is entertaining her lover. She tells him there’s nothing to worry about, that her husband will never be coming home because she’s let the police know where he is. They both slink into the bedroom ignoring the baby’s cries.

Forgotten Faces (8)

But to her dismay, Heliotrope arrives home to discover his baby daughter in hysterics and his wife and her lover in the bedroom. He shoots him, packs up his child and leaves the house for good while Lilly shows nothing but contempt for him.

Olga Baclanova

Olga Baclanova

Heliotrope meets up with Froggy and tells him that he’s leaving his daughter to be raised by a wealthy couple he’s anonymously chosen. He puts her basket on their doorstep, rings the doorbell, then he and Froggy watch behind a tree to make sure that she’s taken in. He’s made a wise choice because this couple recently lost their only child and it appears that they have not been able to conceive another. To them this baby was sent from heaven.

Forgotten Faces (2)

He then turns himself in, gets put away for life and arranges for Froggy to watch over his daughter from afar. He sends Heliotrope pictures of her growing up and before our eyes Alice Deane (Mary Brian) becomes a lovely young lady.

Mary Brian, Jack Luden and Olga Baclanova

Mary Brian, Jack Luden and Olga Baclanova

But Lilly wants her daughter, especially because she knows this will torture Heliotrope. She visits him in jail, taunting him that she’s going to find her and take her away.

Forgotten Faces (7)

This earlier film is the second one that I’ve seen this year with Clive Brook and Olga Baclanova as an unhappy married couple. (A Dangerous Woman was shown at Cinefest).  Even though Brook plays the crook in this film, Baclanova’s the one that’s evil and deranged, and she’s oh so good at it.

Forgotten Faces (1)

When she discovers that Heliotrope is unexpectedly out of jail, Lilly no longer feels safe. Any time she smells the scent of Heliotrope, she cowers in fear that her husband will appear and kill her.  But Heliotope has promised the warden that he won’t lay a hand on her; only look out for his daughter.  To protect his daughter from being kidnapped by Lilly, he has infiltrated Alice’s home as a relief butler.

Forgotten Faces (6)

It’s a pretty spectacular ending to a most engaging film.

The last film of the night was LAUGHTER IN HELL (1933), directed by Edward L. Cahn, with Pat O’Brien, Merna Kennedy, Gloria Stuart and Douglass Dumbrille.  I thought this was a very good and powerful film.

The story is about three boys, Barney Slaney (Tommy Conlin), and brothers Grover (Mickey Bennett) and Ed Perkins (Dick Winslow) and the animosity between them.  Barney has just discovered the horrible news that his young mother has died.  He is heartbroken but is shown no sympathy from the Perkins brothers.  Nothing changes when these lads become men.

Author Jim Tully

Author Jim Tully

Barney (Pat O’Brien) who works as an engineer meets flirty girl Marybelle Evans (Merna Kennedy).  She also happens to know brothers Grover (Arthur Vinton) and Ed (Douglass Dumbrille).  But good looking and hardworking Barney has fallen for her and Marybelle consents to be his wife.  But Marybelle enjoys the attention of other men and even while she’s standing in a certain spot to wave to her husband as the train rolls by, she is also thrilled to fall into the arms of her lover, Grover, once the train, and Barney, are out of sight.

One night Barney comes home unexpectedly and although his wife and her lover try to arrange things to make Barney think Grover has just dropped by, he’s no fool and kills both his enemy and her for her betrayal with a man that he loathes.  He goes to trial and is convicted and sentence to life on a chain gang.  And who is the warden of this particular chain gang, none other than Ed, the murdered man’s brother.  You can only imagine what kind of extra special treatment Barney is receives; and the regular treatment is pretty darn awful to begin with.

There’s a terrible scene with the hanging of four black prisoners.  It appears their crime for this hanging is singing gospel and annoying the other, white prisoners.  More heartrending gospel is sung as they dangle.

Laughter in Hell (3)

Life becomes so miserable for the inmates that when a twist of fate gives Barney a chance to kill his tormentor, havoc occurs.  The guards are shooting, everyone’s shouting and Barney yells, “Make a run for it!  What do you have to lose but your lives!”  They do and some prisoners are shot, one’s we’ve grown to know and like, and it’s a sad thing.

But Barney escapes and eventually drags his bedraggled self to an isolated farm house.  He meets a lone woman, Lorraine (Gloria Stuart), who’s the only survivor of a disease that has killed off her whole family.  She feeds and cares for him, treating his back that is festering with wounds from whippings.  Situations occur which allow Barney and Lorraine to support each other and now, as a team of two, decide to build a better life together.

It was particularly interesting to see O’Brien playing a low-key character as he’s usually remembered for a lot of loud talking and bluster.

Laughter in Hell (2)

It might make for difficult viewing but LAUGHTER IN HELL would make a good double bill with I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.

End of Day 2.  Stay tuned for Day 3.

August 10, 2014 – Day 3
The first film of the morning was in a way perfect for a Sunday, especially for those who missed church to watch movies. It was CRADLE SONG (1933), (or as one of my film friends dubbed it, “100 Nuns and a Girl”) first ever film directed by Mitchell Leisen, with Dorothea Wieck, Evelyn Venable, Louise Dresser and Guy Standing.

Dorothea Wieck, Swiss-born but having spent her childhood in Sweden, was a German actress who made her Hollywood debut in Paramount’s CRADLE SONG. It’s the only English language film version of Gregorio Martinez Serra’s classic Spanish play.  This film did not do well at the box office.

Cradle Song (6)

It’s the story of a young woman, Joanna (Dorothea Wieck), who becomes a nun and how her life plays out in that institution. It’s a tough decision as she had to abandon seeing her family ever again.  Dickie Moore plays her very young brother Alberto in a brief scene where he suddenly realizes that she has gone away and won’t ever return, which was the most emotional moment for me.  Poor little guy.

Once she takes her vows, there’s no turning back. Joanna, feeling constantly teary, soon learns that her melancholy is due to the fact that, as strong as her devotion is to God, she is also strongly pulled towards sexual desire and the need to nurture children. So when an abandoned baby girl appears on the lazy-Susan-like device at the convents door, the Doctor (Guy Standing), who is the only male allowed free access to the building and the nuns, and the kindly Prioress (Louise Dresser) decide that Joanna is the right one to raise this child.

Cradle Song (2)

And she does–with the help of the other sisters. Teresa grows into a lovely, even-tempered young lady (Evelyn Venable).  I usually don’t read the cast list before a film, so it was fun for me to recognize Venable, not by sight but by sound.  She has a beautiful, throaty, low-timbered voice that is unusual and very recognizable.

Cradle Song (4)

Since Teresa doesn’t want to become a nun, she’s allowed off the premises in the charge of the Doctor and meets Antonio (Kent Taylor) the son of a good family. Romance blooms and marriage follows.

Cradle Song (5)

Although this was a visually beautiful film, from the lush sets and scenery to Joanna’s makeup (she never aged), it felt long at 76 minutes. And this film brought out my cynical side, rather than touch me as it seemed to do for so many others.  It showed the similarities that so many religions have with regard to a number of ideas including the theme of “woman must be fully covered and invisible”; faces in particular when in the company of men who don’t have some special designation such as relative, doctor, man-of-the cloth, etc.

Cradle Song (3)

Featured in the cast of nuns was also Gertrude Michael and Gail Patrick. Bonita Granville played a little girl named Carmen and Mischa Auer played the Village Priest.  He wasn’t funny but it always makes me smile just to see him.

My Weaakness (4)

The next film was MY WEAKNESS (1933), directed by David Butler with Lilian Harvey, Lew Ayres, Henry Travers and Harry Langdon.

My Weakness (8)

Lilian Harvey and Lew Ayres

Lilian Harvey and Lew Ayres

My Weaakness (2)

It’s the story of wealthy Ronnie Gregory (Lew Ayres) who, to save his allowance from being cut, makes a bet with his uncle Gerald Gregory (Charles Butterworth) that he can turn plain cleaning maid Looloo Blake (Lilian Harvey) into stunning beauty and marry her off to a rich society man.

My Weaakness (1)

Okay, so you could see that Looloo was never an eye-sore and she had a lot of charm, personality-wise.

My Weaakness (6)

It brought to mind a film I saw at Toronto Film Society last year called Higher and Higher (1943), with a similar premise—remaking a maid to look glamorous and sophisticated to catch a rich husband and win a bet.

My Weaakness (7)

The film starts off with a poem by Dan Cupid, played by Harry Langdon. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen Langdon in a role where he didn’t give me the creeps.  I enjoyed him as a too old, too much into his cups and possibly even a gay, off-kilter cupid.

My Weaakness (5)

After lunch we saw POINTED HEELS (1929), directed by A. Edward Sutherland, with William Powell, Fay Wray, Helen Kane, Richard “Skeets” Gallagher, Phillips Holmes and Eugene Pallette.

Pointed Heels (11)

Broadway producer Robert Courtland (William Powell) is in love with married show girl Lora Nixon (Fay Wray). Even though stage director Joe Carrington (Eugene Pallette) says of her, “She can’t sing.  She can’t act and she can’t dance.  I suppose she’s good to her mother,” that doesn’t stop Bob from flattering her. But she lets him know she’s in love with her husband Donald Ogden (Phillips Holmes), which Joe points out, kind of upsets Bob’s plans. “That’s just too bad, she scratched off of your list of prospects,” says Joe. “Oh yeah?!”

Helen Kane

Helen Kane

Next we meet not so endearing couple Dash (Skeets Gallagher) and Dot Nixon (Helen Kane, the original Boop-Oop-A-Doop Girl), Lora’s brother and sister-in-law.  I smirked when he not-so-sweetly called her  “Hangnail”.

Pointed Heels (9)

Nice Digs!

Pianist and symphony composer Don receives a letter from his mother telling him his allowance has been cut off since he chose to marry a show girl. They have to give up their fabulous digs and move into a small apartment in a tenement building.

Pointed Heels (7)

New Reality.

Lora, who’s now back at work in the chorus, comes home to find Don working on his symphony. He tells her to rest and he’ll cook the meal.  Bu he’s totally inept and, in what I think is supposed to be a comic scene, he makes an absolute mess in the kitchen.  He smashes the eggs all over the floor, breaks the opener on the sardine can, can’t find the can opener, can’t open the drawer where Lora tells him it’s kept, pulls it too hard and spills the entire contents onto the floor.  When he does find it, he just steps over everything rather than pick anything up.  Doesn’t even know how to light the gas stove, nearly blowing them both up. He’s finally relegated to set the table while Lora stays to make dinner and clean up the mess.  Nothing has changed since 1929. I suppose I shouldn’t get upset when my 16-year-old son doesn’t do much better!

Pointed Heels (4)

Lora’s brother and his wife unexpectedly drop in to eat dinner with them. They help themselves to the good chairs while asking Don how his symph-phoney is coming along. They perform a song. While Don is showing them how he to can write a pop song, Bob drops by.  The bickering couple leave but eavesdrop in the hallway.

Pointed Heels (2)

While Lora is in the kitchen, Bob presents Don with a beautiful jade gift as a wedding gift. (We expect it’s really for her.)   Don and Bob start to talk and one thing leads to another with Don playing one of his compositions for Bob.  When Bob gives him an educated compliment, Don is so elated that he doesn’t realize that he’s insulted Lora by implying she’s too ignorant to know why his music would be good even if she does like it. Helen and Dash head back in all dressed up, taking centre stage so to speak, and literally cornering Bob while they perform their number.

Pointed Heels (12)

During rehearsals Don is upset that his sophisticated music has been turned into pop tunes. And to add insult to injury, before she’s realized what she’s said Lora’s blurts out that someone in the family has to make the bucks, meaning her. The Nixon’s are now singing Don’s song in a high hat way which makes it even duller than dish water.

Hard to see, but Fay Wray's skirt is really interesting.

Hard to see, but Fay Wray’s skirt is really interesting.

Lora decides that she needs to leave Don and let’s Bob know by having a drink in his office to celebrate her decision.

Pointed Heels (6)

Next we find her dead drunk in his bachelor pad. She passes out so he’s carried her into his bedroom and placed her on the bed. He turns off the light and shuts the door from inside the bedroom as the scene fades. But when she wakes up, to our surprise (and hers), we find Dot sleeping beside her.  Breakfast is served in bed.

Pointed Heels (8)

Don pays a call and when he’s told by the butler that Bob isn’t there he asks to leave a note. But when he sees the butler picking up a purse that he recognizes as his wife’s, he writes the note to her saying he “understands everything and is sailing for Europe that very night”, and leaves.

Pointed Heels (3)

The two women enter the living room just as Bob and Dash arrive. Lora leaves and Bob plies the couple with drinks until they get plastered. When the show begins, the Nixon’s are dead drunk.

Before setting sail, Don shows up tell Bob that he’s going to divorce his wife and give her to him, but first he wants to speak to Lora. Bob goes to tell her, but she refuses and cries mournfully when she thinks no one can hear her although Bob can hear her through the door.  (Enough already.)

Pointed Heels (5)

A stage manager comes to tell Bob that the Nixon’s are both intoxicated. I think it’s a horrible performance by the drunken pair and am sick of seeing and hearing them sing this stupid song.  Apparently though it was a success and the theatre is saved.

Fay Wray

Fay Wray

Bob sends John to Lora’s dressing room and they all live happily ever after, but not really since everyone’s success is based on the Nixon’s getting drunk every night to perform their act. I think it would be more entertaining if instead the audience did and the Nixon’s performed it straight.

Shadow of the Law (3)

Okay, next was SHADOW OF THE LAW (1930), directed by Louis Gasnier, with William Powell, Marion Shilling and Natalie Moorhead. I must confess that I barely remember this film and wish I could see it again.

Shadow of the Law (2)

William Powell, Marion Shilling, Regis Toomey and Natalie Moorhead

SHADOW OF THE LAW is a dramatic story that may remind some of the 1932 classic I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, although it proceeds that film by two years.   Jim Montgomery aka John Nelson (William Powell) is the good guy who gets involved with bad girl Ethel Barry aka Ethel George (Natalie Morehead) and good girl Edith Wentworth (Marion Shilling).

Natalie Moorhead

Natalie Moorhead

While escorting Ethel to her apartment door, a man steps out of the shadows and angrily demands to know where she has been. The embarrassed Nelson excuses himself and goes to his rooms in the same hotel. The woman rushes into his apartment followed by the man who met her in the hall. The man threatens her with violence and Nelson comes to her defense. In the ensuing fight, the man is knocked out of the window and falls to his death to the pavement many stories down. Nelson is charged with the killing and Ethel, his only witness that can prove self-defence for him, has disappeared and cannot be found. Paul Hurst gets a nice role as Powel’s pal Pete Shore. The prison angle is short, so this should not actually be considered a “prison picture.”  The escape is exciting and suspenseful, and Powell’s attempt to clear himself are also interesting and absorbing.

Shadow of the Law (1)

The last film of the festival was SHARP SHOOTERS (1928), directed by John G. Blystone, with George O’Brien, Lois Moran and William Demarest.

Sharp Shooters (3)

This was the second of two sailor buddy films (the first, Sailor’s Luck was screened the previous week at Toronto Film Society’s GEH film weekend in Rochester).  This is the better film.

It’s the story of three sailors, handsome George (George O’Brien), and buddies Tom (Noah Young) and Jerry (Tom Dugan) on leave in Paris. They frequent the dance-halls and that’s where George meets dancer Lorette (Lois Moran).  She becomes absolutely head-over-heels smitten with him and invites him home to meet grandfather (Josef Swickard).  Of course George is only “in love” for the moment and flippantly tells her to come visit him the next time she just happens to be in New York.  Well, Lorette takes him seriously and sets sail for America.

Sharp Shooters (2)

Meanwhile, the boys are on leave back home and George immediately looks up good-time gal Flossy (Gwen Lee) who’s working at a flower shop. He immediately starts seducing her by kneeling down and kissing and running his hand up her leg, out of camera shot, but obvious by Flossy’s facial expressions, we know what’s going on.  I have to say I’ve never seen that before!

When Lorette’s ship arrives in New York, she can’t find her papers and immigration is ready to send her back. She escapes in a row boat, is hit and rescued by gangster and dance hall owner ‘Hi Jack’ Murdock (William Demarest) who hires her to dance in his joint. She starts looking for George and finds him dancing with Flossy.  She doesn’t deal well with this.

Lois Moran and George O'Brien

Lois Moran and George O’Brien

But others decide the best thing for George is to marry Lorette. Much against his will, he does and treats her rather badly until he realizes she’s worth it.

A wonderful film to end an equally wonderful weekend! Thanks to all the Capitolfest staff and volunteers!  If you are interested in more information or attending next year’s festival (the featured star will be Nancy Carroll), click here.

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4 thoughts on “Capitolfest in Rome, NY

  1. That sounds like a great festival. FORGOTTEN FACES, HIGH TREASON, LADIES MAN, and SHADOW OF THE LAW all pique my interest. Lillian Harvey as a plain maid and Harry Langdon as cupid? Alright, MY WEAKNESS sounds too outlandish to resist. Thanks for the reviews, Caren!

  2. You brought so much back to me, Caren! It was just a few weeks ago and it feels like years already! Fun recollection to read and the images you used are drool-worthy!!

    Aurora

    • Thanks so much Aurora! Yes, it does feel like it was so long ago. But I will spending time this weekend revisiting and writing about Day 2. Have a good Labour Day weekend!

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