All of Life’s Dreams Come True in The Dream Lady

The Dream Lady is a 1918 silent film directed by Elsie Jane Wilson. It stars Carmel Myers as Rosamond Gilbert, Thomas Holding as John Squire, Kathleen Emerson as Sydney Brown, Harry von Meter as James Mattison, Philo McCullough as Jerrold, and Elizabeth Janes as Allie. The film follows Rosamond Gilbert, a young woman whose uncle has recently left her with an inheritance, allowing her to pursue her dreams. Throughout the course of the movie, we see Rosamond explore her newfound freedom and her pursuit to find love.

The plot and themes of the movie were the first thing that engaged me. The protagonist, Rosamond, is surprisingly progressive for a film produced in 1918. She’s quite independent and seeks to chase her dreams and live her perfect life. In contrast however, there are a lot of interesting and somewhat funny moments from a 2019 perspective in regards to the actions and behavior of different characters. For example, one main sub-story within The Dream Lady is how Rosamond helps another young woman, Sydney Brown, become a man by dressing her up in men’s clothing. After receiving help from Rosamond, Sydney gives Rosamond a kiss and departs. While this is happening, John Squire, a man who is romantically interested in Rosamond, oversees this and becomes jealous, saying, “What?! You allow yourself to be kissed by a gentleman you hardly know? A proper young lady does not accept such expressions of gratitude. I bid you farewell!” This struck me as being pretty funny and was somewhat foreign to me due to the culture I’ve been raised in.

Main characters Rosamond Gilbert and John Squire

I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of editing and cuts that took place throughout the film. There was constant cutting to different angles and there were many different shots to show reactions or emotions. This had to have taken countless hours of filming different individual angles to get all of the shots in the film, and it probably took even longer to cut all of the small shots together on physical film. I don’t have any experience in film, so I don’t know how hard it was to put cut and put together film, but if it’s anything like how difficult and tedious it was for early audio engineers to cut together different layers and takes on tape, then I am amazed at the work that went into this film.

Finally, despite not originally being a part of the original film, I really enjoyed the score created for the Netflix release of this film. The lone piano ebbs and flows with the actions of the movie and fits the mood and timing of certain events absolutely impeccably. There were many subtle, timed musical cues and shifts that emphasized smaller events, coloring the movie with a wonderful palette of different emotions. For example, despite being only a few seconds long, there was a moment when the character Allie was introduced that really stuck with me. Rosamond had just moved into her new cabin and was unpacking her things, when all of the sudden, she noticed her window open. The music shifted to a somewhat ominous tone for about 2 to 3 seconds, then right as a young girl’s head popped out of the window, the music became playful and innocent. These subtle but intentional musical moments improved my general enjoyment of the movie immensely.

Despite knowing nearly nothing about this old silent film going in, I found The Dream Lady to be surprisingly enjoyable watch. It was fascinating seeing all of the old outfits and behavior of the characters and the amount of work that went into the overall production of the film. Everything from the sets to the editing really surprised me for a film over a hundred years old.

Citations:
Bluebird Photoplays, 1918, https://www.netflix.com/title/81030762.
“The Dream Lady.” IMDb, IMDb.com, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0009026/.

Perch of the Devil (But Actually Black Oxen)

After renting Perch of the Devil on Amazon Prime Video for $1.99, I was very confused when the voice of a narrator began telling me about the miners of Butte, Montana. It was at this point that I learned the original Perch of the Devil, the silent film adapted from Gertrude Atherton’s novel of the same name, is one of the thousands of silent films lost to time. I had mistakenly rented Perch of the Devil, the 1960 documentary about the copper miner strike of ’59 and the hardships of the Western Rockies mining camps but that has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. I was very disappointed to learn this because the novel got such shining reviews. But even with the original film, possibly but hopefully not, gone forever we still know nearly everything about it. Strange how that works with these lost films. We can know everyone involved in writing and directing it, every actor that appeared, what studio funded the whole project, when it was released; we can read the reviews but can never lay eyes on the product ourselves.

The film of Perch of the Devil may be lost but at least the names involved are remembered. The original novel was written by Gertrude Atherton in 1914. Come 1919 her writings began being adapted to film in a joint effort with Eminent Authors Pictures Corporation. Eminent Authors Pictures Corporation was an ambitious studio project that put out very well received films but only lasted a few years due to creative disputes between the writers (who were all best selling novelists at the time) and the directors. Studios continued to adapt Atherton’s novels.

Image result for perch of the devil movie poster

In 1927, Universal Pictures released Perch of the Devil adapted to screenplay by Mary O’Hara, directed by (his heiness) King Baggot, and produced by Carl Laemmle. The film stared Mae Busch as Ida Hook, Pat O’Malley as Gregory Compton, and Jane Winton as Ora Blake. It was disappointed to find out the film was lost not only because the novel received great reviews, but just from the summary the film sounds like a wild ride. You can read it on IMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018256/plotsummary?mode=desktop&ref_=m_ft_dsk) but i’ll summarize the summary. Ida, an uneducated hick, is married to Montana prospector, Gregory Compton. She is bored with her life so she convinces her wealthy, worldly friend Ora to take her on a trip to Europe. Ida lives the high life, attracting many wishful suitors, but she grows weary of the pleasantries and carefreeness and wants to return home to her true love, Gregory. Meanwhile, Gregory has been busy striking gold. He telegraphs to Ida of his luck but Ora, a conniving bitch, has been secretly in love with Gregory the whole time. She sabotages Ida’s response by rewriting it saying that Ida will only return for a share in the gold. Gregory sees the evils and backstabbing that comes with great wealth and only wants his old life with his true love again. Ida and the bitch return to Montana and Ida figures about about the backstabbing. Ida and Ora duke it out in the mine, but unaware of their duking, the now disillusioned Gregory intends on blowing up the mine at the same time. Fucking. Wild.

With that love and conspiracy fueled roller-coaster lost to time, I decided to watch a different film adapted from Gertrude Atheron’s best selling Black Oxen, a fantasy drama described as “subtle science fiction”.

Image result for black oxen movie posterBlack Oxen is a silent film released in 1924 starring Corinne Griffith, Conway Tearle, and Clara Bow, and directed by Frank Lloyd. The original is long lost, thanks to Default Name, you can watch  the 60 minute version on YouTube. However it is incomplete, missing the full ending, cut short almost 20 minutes. The film is still enjoyable but inevitably in this state, a bit of an unsatisfying ending.

To be completely honest, I was expecting watching an hour long silent film to be a grueling task. But early on in the film, I found myself captivated by the drama, expressive performances, and sprinkled in humor. Spaces between dialogue frames were never too short or too long; they were never unnecessary and often witty.  The film used basic still shots, but had very good use of medium and closeup shots to establish emphasis on a character and their expression. Cuts and perspective change were frequent enough that no single still shot became stale.

The film is built with extremely relevant relationships of the time- the traditionalist, conservative matriarch and her frequent scolding and disapproval of her flapper granddaughter (Janet Oglethorpe played by Clara Bow). X-rays were still considered a new technology. Gertrude Atherton elevates this new technology to the science fiction level of x-ray surgery being used to reverse aging, to set up an interesting and extraordinary twist. The main themes explored are love and age, and how the two relate. Do they go hand in hand, or are they enemies? Is love only for the youthful? Can an older woman who never married still find love with her diminished looks? Is love only visual? Black Oxen explores these questions but without a proper ending, it’s difficult to know how the film would answer them. It’s difficult to know how anyone would answer as these have been the questions of dramas and love stories for hundreds of years. The technology we use to pose questions of life has advanced dramatically but the nature of love and aging, or even the bickering between generations will never change.

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018256/fullcredits/?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Oxen

 

 

“That Hagen Girl” — A Riddle Stuffed Deep in an Enigmatic Mystery

“That Hagen Girl” (1947) original movie poster

“Formulaic, condemning small-town soaper” and “mess of a film”. These were the exact words used by critics about the supreme forties melodrama. Directed by Peter Godfrey and produced by the Warner Bros., That Hagen Girl starring Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple hit the big screens as an American drama film in 1947. The screenplay was written by Charles Hoffman which was based off of the original 1946 novel by Edith Elizabeth Roberts. It garnered wide attention from both the media and its viewers — just not in the best way.

Synopsis

The film revolves around Mary Hagen (Shirley Temple), a high school girl, who becomes the talk of the town and essentially socially blacklisted after rumors that she was born out of wedlock surface. The townsfolk come to the conclusion that her father is handsome Tom Bates (Ronald Reagan), who had been dating the high school prom queen twenty years prior. With no explanation, the obscure socialite abruptly disappeared only to return with her parents and be kept away, safe from the public eye. Speculators assumed that she gave birth to a baby girl, who was then adopted by a local couple unable to conceive. Hearing of her return, Tom tries to see his girlfriend many times but is consistently spurned by her unyieldingly stern parents, so he ultimately relocates to another town. Now a successful lawyer, he returns again almost two decades later subsequent to falling heir to a house in his hometown. Although rumors of him being Mary’s biological father renew, Tom is oblivious of the current situation and ironically becomes her mentor. As the storyline progresses, he becomes aware of the malicious talk spread by the rumor mill. Young Mary begins to get bullied for being an alleged illegitimate child, but her teacher and presumed father stand by her. The film, however, takes a shocking turn when Tom shockingly unveils his love interest for Mary in the end.

Film Review

Perhaps a product of the era, That Hagen Girl is unsurprisingly hackneyed when seen through the lens of today’s film standards with the formularized plot and costumes. In spite of that, the film manages to be an outlier as one of the first films to condemn bullying and elucidate its traumatizing effect on victims. Although the highly-critical topic of “out-of-wedlock birth” is diluted towards the end, the film is still an amusing 83-minute experience owing to the significant charismatic appeal of Reagan and Temple, who passaged quite well from her child artist days. Reagan definitely proved to be a much better performer than his future political contenders would admit. Lois Maxwell’s performance was also quite remarkable which even scored her a Golden Globe as “Most Promising Newcomer”.

Personal Impressions

The film very well executes how things used to be in a time when people palavered about sexual scandals, and where someone lived subjected these people to have preconceived notions about them. Rumored to have been born “out of wedlock”, Mary is automatically thought of as a “bad girl”—everything she does is seen with qualm. Both social and economic classes and structures of such towns in the 40’s is almost perfectly delineated.  However, the film often seems stuck between two different perspectives of the world—one that sustains the morals of these towns and one that blatantly disparages those who do not fit under its stereotypical norms. The film has bold characters and a flat plot, but the outstanding performances by both the main and supporting casts are what I truly think made the film shine.

Technological Features and Camera Techniques

I’ve noticed that for every scene that is in a different location than the previous one, the director chose to use a dissolve, which is just a progressive transition from one scene to another. It overlaps two shots at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next. Typically, as used in this film’s case, it helps indicate time has passed between the two scenes or the change of location. In cinema, this effect is generally brought about with an optical printer using controlled double exposure from frame to frame.

In addition to this, I’ve noticed that close shots and over-the-shoulder shots were heavily employed throughout the film. In That Hagen Girl, they were usually used as cutaways from a shot father away to enhance detail, like characters’ emotions, or as other intricate activity. Over-the-shoulder shots are taken when the camera is angled from the shoulder of another person. They are used when two characters are conversing and are very commonly followed by an establishing shot to place the characters in their context properly.

Throughout the research of the film, I have learned that despite its negative critical reception, Reagan and Temple’s performances are what survived it. The ending unexpectedly felt a bit flat and something did not sit right with me after Reagan realized he had feeling for who could possibly be his daughter. All in all, I think the film accomplished its goal of highlighting its characters’ acting strengths despite the setback of the plot.

Works Cited

Pfeiffer, Lee. “ DVD REVIEW: ‘THAT HAGEN GIRL’ … .” Cinema Retro, 2013, cinemaretro.com/index.php?%2Farchives%2F7382-DVD-REVIEW-THAT-HAGEN-GIRL-1947-STARRING-RONALD-REAGAN%2C-SHIRLEY-TEMPLE-AND-LOIS-MAXWELL.html.

“Close-Up.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close-up#Practical_application.

Godfrey, Peter, director. That Hagen Girl. Internet Archive, Warner Bros., 1 Jan. 1970, archive.org/details/TheHagenGirl34.

“Over the Shoulder Shot.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_the_shoulder_shot.

“That Hagen Girl (1947).” ‎That Hagen Girl (1947) Directed by Peter Godfrey • Reviews, Film + Cast • Letterboxd, letterboxd.com/film/that-hagen-girl/.

“That Hagen Girl.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 1 Nov. 1947, www.imdb.com/title/tt0039892/?ref_=ttrel_rel_tt.

“That Hagen Girl.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0039892/reviews.

“That Hagen Girl.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That_Hagen_Girl#Box_office.

Westward Passage: A Lover’s True Intentions

The film I am researching and reviewing is “Westward Passage”, a film directed by Robert Milton and adapted from Margaret Ayer Barnes’ novel Westward Passage. Though it is a tale of two conflicted lovers, it ultimately addresses the nature of all relationships and the factors that motivate us all.

Olivia and Nick Allen begin their marriage with constant fights and quarrels, which leads to their ultimate divorce.

Summary

Premiering in 1932, the film “Westward Passage” depicts the relationship of Olivia Allen (Ann Harding), a classy woman from New York, and her husband, Nick Allen(Laurence Olivier), a struggling but stubborn writer. The two newlyweds begin the film on a brief honeymoon, falling deeper in love with every passing second. Only weeks later, however, they are back to the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. Nick struggles with his occupation and his erratic emotions, often failing to meet Olivia’s wants and needs; soon, they have their first child, and things begin to spiral. The relationship falls apart and leads to an unhappy divorce. Olivia remarries a polite, put-together businessman named Harry Ottendorf (Pichet) and Nick focusing his time on his ambitions of becoming a writer. After six years, Olivia runs into Nick once more, learning he has finally published a book and once more wants a place back in Olivia’s life. However, Olivia decides to focus her responsibilities on her family, leaving Nick. Years later, Olivia again bumps into Nick on a ship traveling back to America from Paris, France. Nick, now a successful author, tries to win back Olivia’s heart. Olivia, devotedly married, fends off Nick’s pleas to court her, but gives in to several dates over the course of the trip. Upon landing ashore, she falls back into the charm she once saw in Nick, and the two rekindle their broken love. Their love, though fragile, is still love. At the film’s conclusion, it seems as though they will try to hold onto this feeling for as long as it lasts.

Review

Technological Features

This film puts Margaret Ayer Barnes’ original novel onto the big screen. Reviewers at the time took a great liking to this adaption of the novel, believing notable actors Ann Harding and Laurence Olivier gave the story “a fresh vein of dialogue.” From watching the film in its entirety, I feel the acting was great and unique, in part due to the fact I had not watched a nineteenth-century film before, but also due to the passionate, though sometimes overblown, conversations by the actors (Click here for a full list of cast members). Background settings and props contributed immensely to the overall nature of the film. The fancy way in which the middle-class men and women dressed showed that materialism and social status were both heavily valued in society at the time. Interestingly, Nick’s transformation from a starving and independent writer to a wealthy celebrity can be seen from the suits he dons by the film’s end and the ornate chairs and tables that decorate his home. The use of camera technology improved greatly from films earlier in the century. I noticed many continuity shots used to continue the flow of a scene into a different setting, while others were done to emphasize the speaker. Because Olivia’s feelings were a driving force of this film, headshots captured her animated reactions. In other scenes, the camera followed her, showing her gracefully prancing down the stairs, or walking off in a fit of sadness due to Nick’s pitfalls. All in all, the film’s constantly shifting camera angles show great diligence on the part of director Robert Milton and producers David O. Selznick and Harry Joe Brown.

Use of Technology Rating: 8/10

Plot/Themes

This film adaptation carries on the themes that Margaret Ayer Barnes hoped to convey in her bestselling novel Westward Passage. However, due to the breadth of the storyline, the film at times seems to rush through the major points in both Olivia and Nick’s lives, making the plotline seem forced at times. Within the first thirty minutes of the film Olivia had married, divorced, remarried, and six years had gone by, making me wonder what events transpired between time shifts and confused me on the true personalities of the characters. More time could have been given to developing the characters, rather than immediately jumping from timeframe to timeframe. We do know, however, the most critical details that complete the plotline. When Olivia and Nick meet again on the ship eight years after they divorced, we see that Olivia is devoted to her marriage and her daughter, Little Olivia (Bonita Granville), and Nick is far richer and far more successful than he was previously. These important distinctions explain Olivia’s reluctance to speak to Nick while on the ship. As viewers, we see Nick think that he can win over Olivia with his riches. However, we also recognize Olivia’s consistent morals and believe her when she says she is no longer interested in Nick. Ultimately, Nick’s persistence wins Olivia over. His comments about her husband Harry being slow and dull like “molasses” compared to the high-class and exciting lifestyle Nick will provide play a part in convincing Olivia to leave. However, I could not help but think that one of the reasons Olivia left was for the money. Leaving Nick is obviously in her best interest, as he does not care about familial responsibilities or their daughter. Yet, against all reason, it is Nick who she chooses to ultimately be with. The story’s ending leaves the future of their relationship up to speculation.

Plot Rating: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

When earlier settlers traveled to unexplored lands, they often took a westward passage, often through wild terrains and seas. Olivia and Nick, at the end of the film, even after traveling across the Atlantic, find that the only “Westward Passage” they will be taking is the tumultuous relationship they are set to endure.

Citations:

  1. “Westward Passage: Detail View”. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  2. ^ Westward Passage profile, imdb.com; accessed Sep 20, 2019.
  3. ^ Westward Passage profile, ftvdb.bfi.org.uk; accessed Sep 20, 2019.
  4. https://ok.ru/video/373367179778

 

The Keeper of the Bees (1935): A Keeper of the Times. A Review

My research project concerns the 1935 adaptation of Freckles filmed by RKO Pictures based on Gene Stratton-Porter’s novel Freckles; however, I was unfortunately not able to obtain access to the 1935 adaptation of Freckles as it is held in a private collection, hidden from public view due to copyright and a number of other issues. In its place, I decided to watch the most relevant film available: Keeper of the Bees (1935) made by Monogram Pictures based on Stratton-Porter’s novel The Keeper of the Bees, which was adapted four times as a film. Keeper of the Bees and Freckles are closely related because both of the films are based on a novel written by Stratton-Porter and were released in the same year, meaning that both films were made using similar film technologies and techniques. Additionally, they were both made in the same era under the same influences and culture of the time. Now, without further ado, I will present my review of the 1935 adaptation of The Keeper of the Bees.

Poster of the film

The Film

The Keeper of the Bees (1935) directed by Christy Cabanne and starring Neil Hamilton and Betty Furness as the main protagonists of the film details veteran Jamie McFarland, who decides to embark on an adventure with only six months left to live, and Molly Campbell, who Jamie runs into on his trip away from the hospital. In the film, McFarland must find the meaning to the rest of his short-lived life and in doing so, ends up at a bee farm, eventually taking ownership of it when its owner dies in the hospital. The film throughout its plot discusses the meaning of life, love, death, and family as McFarland begins to live in a bee farm where he had no previous connection to, even marrying a girl who only wishes to use his name. In the film, we can see Stratton-Porter’s love for nature, just like in many of her novels, with many scenes of bees and their intricate hive working to the natural setting of the farm and beach coast. The black and white film features sound and plenty of dialogue with which it is able to completely avoid using intertitles at all. The film also heavily exemplifies continuity cutting with multiple close-ups, fade in and fade out cuts, focus pulls, and reverse shots. For its time, the film utilizes these techniques to create a continuous and smooth story, bringing the viewers attention to where the directors want it with focus pulls and close up and providing clean and expressive dialogue scenes with reverse shots. The Keeper of the Bees (1935) is able to use all these various techniques in addition to sound and dialogue to create a cohesive film and plot. However, the film does admittedly fall short in some aspects.

 

My Review

Released in 1935, the film is released less than a decade from the first sound film in 1927. As such, the film suffers from poor sound quality, perhaps due to bad technology or bad preservation of the soundtrack of the film over time, which oftentimes makes the dialogue and thus the plot hard to understand. Additionally, the plot develops rather slowly with long periods at least in terms of today’s fast-moving expectations. However, the film does do a spectacular job of utilizing filmography to convey the story at hand: one of a war veteran with little life left. I believe that much of the emotion and passion found in Stratton-Porter’s original book was lost in the film adaptation as at least for me, I did not feel and empathize with the actors as much. I feel as if the actors could have done a better job of expressing the characters they were playing. I believe the film accomplished what it was trying to do—adapt Stratton-Porter’s novel into film—but did not do a spectacular job of doing so as it left out the passions and the lessons of Stratton-Porter’s original novel.  

Overall, the plot was bland because of the lackluster acting and hard to understand audio in my opinion. I would recommend you to watch the film because of its historical significance and the film techniques that can be observed in it, but definitely not for the plot nor entertainment. All things considered, I rate The Keeper of the Bees (1935) a five out of ten (5/10). 

Works Cited

Gene Stratton-Porter. (2019, September 7). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Stratton-Porter

“KEEPER OF THE BEES” Classic Old Movie Film Full Length Free–Story by Gene Stratton Porter. (2015, January 23). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXUY2lxISA0

NitrateVille Blog. (2010, October). Retrieved from https://nitrateville.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4139&start=60

The Keeper of the Bees (1935 film). (2019, May 23). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Keeper_of_the_Bees_(1935_film)

Strangers May Kiss: The True Meaning of Love and Marriage

Why I chose this film in the first place

When my mother first immigrated here from China, her American friends introduced her to Hollywood films: old Hollywood films. They told her that their use of formal language would help her practice her English-speaking skills. So, she began watching them, a lot of them, and she liked a lot of them. One of the films that she recognized on the list was Strangers May Kiss, and she insisted that I choose it because “I could relate to the main character.” At first, I didn’t believe her, but after watching it, I could see where she was coming from.

Background

Based on the original novel by Ursula Parrott, Strangers May Kiss was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and directed by George Fitzmaurice. It was released on April 4, 1931, in the wake of the film era. I managed to find a copy of this movie online. Click here to view the movie.

Synopsis

Lisbeth is a proud, glamorous, sexy woman whose core beliefs about love and marriage revolve around the idea of freedom. She falls in love with a newspaper reporter named Alan, who agrees that their relationship should remain friendly and physical. Steve, her fiance who is very much in love with her, allows Lisbeth to be with other men as long as she is happy.

Her relationship with Alan soon becomes difficult. Lisbeth’s aunt Celia firmly believes that love and marriage are intertwined, saying that “marriage and love are not enemies. A woman doesn’t know how to be in love until she’s been married ten years.” Unfortunately for her, she soon finds out that her husband has been cheating on her. After much contemplation (not really), she commits suicide by jumping out of her apartment window.

Alan, shocked by what happened, is afraid that Lisbeth will love him the same way that Celia loved her husband.  As a result, he simply leaves for a month (because he is a nice and caring guy), not telling Lisbeth where he is going or when he will be back. Lisbeth tries to shake it off but quickly forgives Alan when he comes back. Alan takes her to Mexico for a vacation but eventually leaves her heartbroken when he tells her that she doesn’t want her to love him too much.

Her response, like any other normal human being, was to travel to Europe for two years and “have fun”… a lot of fun. One day, Steve tracks her down with the intention of marrying her. On that same day, Alan calls to tell her that he divorced his wife and was coming to see her in person, which obviously made her happy. However, he quickly learns about her sexual past and leaves her again (because he is a nice and caring guy). They eventually reconcile after she admits that it was all her fault.

Review and Effects

This film was one of the most blunt and honest films that I have ever watched. As a result of the Roaring Twenties, it became socially acceptable for women to wear short skirts, smoke cigarettes, and drink alcohol on a regular basis. This film was brave, however. It directly challenged this trend, saying that women’s role in society was more than being just a “flapper.” They were to be good, caring wives of men. This movie obviously was not a sensation in America, but in my opinion, that was to be expected. I greatly respect Ursula Parrott for bluntly challenging such a popular trend in society at the time.

But the film does not completely advocate for total loyalty and submission of women to men. Ursula Parrott still brings up the concept of freedom and independence. Because women were assimilating into the “flapper” culture, men began viewing women as sexual objects. This film implies that women should be more aware and more rational about their choices, instead of bending over to the actions of men. This, I believe, is a powerful statement in balancing the relationship between women and men.

I felt the way that she looks at him

For me, what really hit home was the idea of meaningful love (my mother was not surprised). A few years ago, I never really thought much of meaningful love and relationships; I’ve always viewed it as fleeting. However, after being in a meaningful relationship, I realized that there was a point in dating and marriage. Love really drove me through that year. It was so powerful and so prevalent in my life that meaningless relationships became boring. I felt it from Norma Shearer during the movie as well. I felt the happiness and joy that she got from being with the man she loved, and it was the same way I felt that year. It was a pleasant feeling…

But I digress.

Overall, Strangers May Kiss is a good example of how the film industry revolutionized itself based on available technology. The movie, in particular, capitalized on audio advancement. This was accomplished by having the actors mouth the script and then playing the audio in sync with the actors. This “talkie” was effective because it was able to use sound to convey its message. The dialogue was the sole reason why I thought this movie was blunt in the first place. The actors are able to say what they’re feeling and what they think about love and marriage. This allows the film to convey its message more clearly and, as a result, more effectively.

 

Work Cited

Danny. “Strangers May Kiss (1931) Review, with Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery.” Pre, 25 Jan. 2015, http://pre-code.com/strangers-may-kiss-1931-review-norma-shearer-robert-montgomery/.

“Strangers May Kiss.” Strangers May Kiss Movie Script, https://www.scripts.com/script.php?id=strangers_may_kiss_18971&p=5.

“Strangers May Kiss.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 July 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangers_May_Kiss.

“Strangers May Kiss (1931).” Rotten Tomatoes, 23 Jan. 2017, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/strangers_may_kiss.

Ramona (1910): A fine film but a lacking adaptation of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel

One of the costliest films ever made when released in 1910, Ramona: A Story of the White Man’s Injustice to the Indian also broke ground in that it was one of the first films to be an adaptation of a famous novel – a phenomenon ubiquitous today. Directed by renowned director D.W. Griffith and starring silent-era Hollywood icon Mary Pickford as Ramona, Henry Walthall as Alessandro, and Francis Gordon as Felipe, Ramona aimed to capitalize on the wild success of Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 novel of the same name. While the film was well made and met with warm reception from audiences, it was not true to the book in terms of Helen Hunt Jackson’s intended purpose: to shed light on white settlers’ disruption of the Native American way of life.

One of the highlights of the movie was the level of acting. Even though I don’t have much experience with watching silent films, I was easily able to understand the actors’ feelings through their facial expressions, which is impressive given the complexity of the emotions in the story. Certain scenes, such as when Alessandro goes mad or Ramona laments her husband’s death, stood out to me in particular as they were able to convey the mood of the story purely through actions and expressions, without relying on background music or dialogue.

The visuals were also a high point in the film. Considering the California craze that the original novel whipped up, D.W. Griffith decided to film the movie entirely in California, making Ramona one of the first few films to do that. Although this drastically increased the costs of making the film, the beautiful, mountainous shops interspersed through the film were worth it (and probably profitable, too).

In addition to the scenery, the vibrant Spanish costumes were a breath of fresh air from the ordinary, drab clothes that dominated American society at the time. This choice was likely intended to further appeal to the perceived romanticism of California that Jackson’s novel created.

For all its acting chops and great visuals, Ramona was hindered by its short runtime, which spanned just under seventeen minutes. The task of fitting a large story into a short film meant that while individual scenes were well developed, they were not put together smoothly. Considering that the novel spans a story over a few years, Ramona as a film is unable to convey this longevity even with the effective use of intertitles, which has the effect of making the storyline choppy. For example, Ramona and Alessandro’s baby is born one minute and dead two minutes later, whereas in the book, she lives for at least several months. In addition, the time jumps from scene to scene also make it difficult to understand Ramona’s struggles and empathize with her, which was a crucial goal of the novel.

The biggest downfall of the movie was its failure to be a full adaptation of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel. The novel’s core purpose, to expose the brutality that Native Americans faced at the hands of the US Government, was heavily watered-down in the film in order to prevent controversy with audiences. For example, when the white settlers drove out Ramona’s family from their home, they simply waved their guns around and gave Alessandro a coin, all while speaking in a calm manner. The closest they got to “plunder” was kicking a chair over. I have no doubt that if Helen Hunt Jackson had been alive when this film was released, she would be utterly disappointed because the film does nothing to advance Jackson’s original purpose, everything to create entertainment value.

Overall, I would give this movie a 6/10. For entertainment purpose, it does mostly right. The acting and visuals kept me interested and the film was overall enjoyable to watch, although it was a little bit confusing with the lack of development and connection between scenes. However, the majority of my criticism derives from the film being a poor adaptation of Helen Hunt Jackson’s daring novel. Its fear of portraying whites in a bad way is understandable, as society at the time would not respond positively, but in doing so it loses all the weight that Jackson’s novel contained. If published in a society that is ready to retrospect on its wrongdoings in the past, I am sure that Ramona as a film could do great in the box office as well as a novel adaptation.

Works Cited

Jones, Dave. “RAMONA (Biograph 1910).” Early Films & Movie Stars. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2019. <https://william-m-drew.webs.com/ramonabiograph1910.htm>.

Kramer, Fritzi. “Ramona (1910) A Silent Film Review.” Movies Silently. N.p., 24 Dec. 2016. Web. 21 Sept. 2019. <http://moviessilently.com/2014/10/12/ramona-1910-a-silent-film-review/>.

“Ramona.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2019. <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0001371/>.

Ramona (1910). Dir. Change Before Going Productions. Perf. Mary Pickford and Henry Walthall. YouTube. YouTube, 21 May 2017. Web. 19 Sept. 2019. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h71_Xk3ROo>.

Schmidt, Christel. “Mary Pickford.” In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013. Web.   September 27, 2013.   <https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-mary-pickford/>

“Who Was Henry B. Walthall.” Henry B. Walthall: Biography–Sweet Home Alabama. N.p., 28 Oct. 2003. Web. 21 Sept. 2019. <http://www.henrybwalthall.com/SweetHomeAlabama.html>.

Livin’ Lucy – A Review of Lucy Gallant (1955)

Overview

Lucy Gallant (1955) first premiered in theaters on October 20th of 1995. Adapted from the Life of Lucy Gallant by Sue Margaret Cousins, the film features acclaimed director Robert Parrish and an ensemble cast highlighted by Oscar winner Jane Wyman.

Screened across the globe, Parrish’s live action take tells the story of a young woman who pushes aside previous unpleasant romances in pursuit of her inner passions. Eventually moving to and settling in the city of New City, Texas, Lucy opens her own clothing store as she battles financial pressures and new developing love interests.

The film Lucy Gallant (1955) benefited greatly from the many technological advents of its time. Shot with sound in Technicolor and VistaVision widescreen in 1954, its visuals and cinematics very much resemble that of a modern-day flick. The movie also incorporated a wide array of film production techniques and technologies, from fadeaways to panoramas, close ups, over-the-shoulder shots, and many more.

Thanks to film preservation techniques, Lucy Gallant (1955) has – so far – survived the test of time. Although it is available to watch from various distributors, I chose a version posted on YouTube to serve as the basis of my review.

It can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW1YIrZjSkQ

General Review

Overall, I believe Lucy Gallant (1955) accomplished its goal of entertaining its audience. I was very much engaged throughout the entirety of the film, despite the relatively lower quality visuals and audio.

The story itself seemed genuine and heartwarming. It directly follows Lucy as she travels with undesirable accommodations (crowded trains, hotel rooms, etc), as she talks lovingly with Casey about their future, as she barters with businessmen and banks, and as she manages the ever so complex minutiae of running a store. The audience is very much kept in the loop with every development in Lucy’s life, which promotes a general sense of empathy and understanding. The amount of plot holes in the story, at least from my perspective, are relatively few in number, making the film a logically succinct narrative.

The acting itself is also generally appropriate, integrating well with the entirety of the story. The actors all appear to be normal people, especially in scenes that are heavy with conversation. They more or less embodied Alice Guy-Blaché’s concept of “be natural”; the body language and vernacular matched that of what one would expect to be common at such a location and time. Although the acting in a few parts of the film were perhaps a bit too emphatic (ex. the rampant shouting during the discovery of oil), they did not detract from the overall plot of the movie.

The various settings are also well developed. Each one is either active (containing many characters that interact with each other) or decorated to the point where everything feels reasonably realistic.

Technology Review

Lucy Gallant (1955) incorporated many technologies that added to the overall viewership experience.

Many of the transitions between scenes were done using fade ways, leading to a clear (although somewhat outdated by modern standards) implication of a shift in location or scenery.

The movie was filmed using adjustable cameras that would move and follow the actors as they interacted with the scene. It added to the overall dynamic of the surroundings, although it was slightly dizzying at certain times.

The film utilized many over-the-shoulder shots when characters were having conversations. Although it certainly helped shift one’s attention to the current speaker, there were a few scenes where such a perspective felt a bit awkward. This was mostly due to the inclusion of only a single character (the speaking characters) in such away that make it seem like he/she was talking to himself/herself.

Panoramas were sometimes used to give a general overview of a scene. They added to the artistic value of the film and helped smooth certain transitions between points in the story. Panoramas and fadeaways were also sometimes combined to show passage of time, a technique used in many modern day films. It was definitely effective in this case.

Some scenes, such as the slowing down of a train, were presented by combining various clips to give the impression that such an event, otherwise difficult to show, was taking place. The technique was effectively, although sometimes not entirely believable.

Final Thoughts

Jane Wynman as Lucy Gallant (Lucy Gallant 1955)

Overall, Lucy Gallant (1954) was a very entertaining watch and well worth the time. Lucy reminds me of a more tame yet determined version of Kissin’ Kate in Louis Sachar’s Holes. Her personality and resilience certainly stand out.

Works Cited

“Lucy Gallant.” American Film Institute, https://catalog.afi.com/catalog/showcase.

Oh Film, Where Art Thou?

All the glamour of the silent film The Country Flapper is either lost forever or holed up in someone’s basement, slowly losing quality as the film deteriorates. In fact, among the films adapted from Nalbro Bartley’s work,  the only one that has survived is Head Over Heels, released in 1922. However, that particular film is not available online, but rather shown in select theaters across the country. As I, a mere college student, do not have the resources to go travel to watch it, I’ve elected to analyze a similar film instead.

As mentioned in the previous post, The Country Flapper drew a significant portion of its audience from star its star, Dorothy Gish. On the advertisements for the movie appearing in magazines, her name was consistently the largest thing on the page, only occasionally rivaled  by the title of the movie itself. To honor the wishes of the marketing team behind the movie, I decided to watch a different recovered film starring Dorothy Gish: Home, Sweet Home (1914).

Dorothy Gish listening in on her sister’s conversation

Plot

The movie is confusing without the help of a summary. For beginners, it is not one story, but four different ones tied together by a song – a song that I couldn’t hear because it is a silent film. In the first story, a man leaves his lover and mother to become an actor and to ultimately live recklessly.  However, he winds up a ruined and depressed man, writing the song “Home, Sweet Home” in his final moments. In the second story, a man and a cook fall in love after a quick conversation. However, he has to leave, supposedly to go marry a different, wealthier woman. As he departs, she tells him that she’ll think of him whenever she hears the song “Home, Sweet Home.” Sure enough, before he goes through with his marriage, he hears the song playing and thinks of the cook he truly loves. Leaving behind a fancy life, he returns back to the diner to claim actual happiness instead (hint, hint).

The third and fourth story follow a less direct, but similar theme. In them, two brothers argue over money. The brother who is owed the money constantly looks for ways to injure or kill his brother, hiding in bushes with a club before simply restoring to a gun. After a small fight scene, the brothers shoot and kill each other. The mother, seeing her two boys dead, considers suicide, but stops when she hears the song and remembers her third child who manages to steer clear of the conflict. In the fourth story, a woman planning to leave her husband for an upgrade doesn’t because she hears a violinist playing the song.

The song “Home, Sweet Home,” is born from the experiences of the fallen man in the first act. He eventually realizes that he should have held on dearly to the people that truly mattered to him. By sharing that message to others through song, he produced a lot of good in the world.  As a reward, the man is able to join his lover in the afterlife in the final scene.

After understanding the context, I can truly appreciate how the director and writer, D.W. Griffith (yes, that one), chose to portray this film. At first, I thought that the four stories were a mistake, but each one left its mark on me and drove the moral of the story home. By the end, I was reflecting on the relationships that I had in my own life. Nonetheless, a movie about a song would be much better with audio. With the exception of the song being represented through a man playing the violin, intertitles were used to signify when the music was playing, making the whole thing slightly cheesy.

Lillian Gish as a angel

Techniques

However, the other film techniques used overshadowed the disappointing intertitles. Well, most of them were good. There was a very poor execution of a screen wipe near the beginning, with an opaque pane slowly descending to the bottom of the screen. The transitions got better after that, using a very smooth fade to black several times. The brother brawl featured gunshot smoke that made the scene all the more dramatic. The final scene featured a green screen of all things, with the ruined man’s lover floating in the clouds. In that final moment especially, I gained an immense amount of appreciation for D.W. Griffith. All in all, it was a very strong  and emotionally effective film considering the technological limitations of the time.

Disappointingly, Dorothy Gish had very little screen time, making my search for a film similar to The Country Flapper somewhat of a failure. However, the search goes on. Nalbro Bartley will not be forgotten on my watch.

Sources

A Room With A View. “1914 Home Sweet Home [Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish].” YouTube, YouTube, 2 Feb. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tguJUTZaaM.

“Head Over Heels.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 7 June 1926, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0013221/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_10.

“Home, Sweet Home.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 17 May 1914, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0003167/.

“The Country Flapper.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 29 July 1922, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0013027/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_.

Extra Drama with A Little Lesson : A Film of Interesting Turns

A film about a classic and dramatic romance between a lawyer and a spunky, spoiled woman from the upper class with a sense for chasing thrills, Manslaughter was an early film from 1922 written by the sensational and talented screenwriter, Alice Deur Miller. The original novel was a concept that caught the attention of the famous and well accredited producer and director, Ceil B DeMille, and which was scripted into a screenplay by Abbie Jane MacPherson. Main characters Lydia Thorne (high-society woman) and Daniel J. O’Bannon (lawyer) are played by actor and actress Thomas Meighan (O’Bannon) and Lois Wilson (Lydia). Other actors/actresses represented in the film by name when mentioned in character through the film’s inserted dialogue and explanatory slides are Casson Ferguson, John Miltern, and Leatrice Joy.

The film is additionally a very interesting one with captivating plot twists and character development, which keeps the audience tuned into the characters. At times, however, it was difficult to discern what was going on because the inserted descriptions were not as frequent as need be, and my curiosity to know what they were communicating between the characters was sparked but unfulfilled. The screen script that was present however, did give insight into the plot and allowed me to really gain a perspective on the characters, as it was additive to the characters expressions and personalities. I would rate this film a 7.5 out of 10, because despite it being an interesting plot, the drama was at times fanatical and simply problematic, which could be attributed to how some characters’ personalities were trying to be portrayed, especially Lydia, who in the beginning of the film was chaotic, irresponsible, and selfish.

At the same time, though, the plot followed a tragic story that was entertaining as well as enjoyable, because it showcased character development in both of the main characters as well as one of the others. For example, within the film Lydia is sent to jail for, as you can guess, manslaughter, and there she claims herself to have ‘gained her soul’ because she has realized the error of her ways and wants to become a better person. Her maid, who was previously imprisoned for stealing from Lydia, realized that she was harboring resentment toward Lydia and reversed her pain into love, in order to remove the hate she’d had.

The strengths of the film lie in the clear plot and portrayal of characters. Without the incorporation of strong personality and discerning between characters, each person was given an interesting personality with a conflict at hand. Weaknesses of the film was that at times it was difficult to see what was going on because of the film quality causing some parts to be grainy and blurry. Also, the fact that the film plot had the simplest event lead to the most dire of consequences, which was strange and overly exaggerated. I did appreciate the change in perspective within the film and kept the sets and background constantly changing to continue the plot in a way that flowed with the succession of events. The technology used to make this film possible was most likely the Parvo camera which was developed in 1915 and continued to contribute to recording film until the 1920’s when more versions innovated cameras were replacing it on the market. This camera was more mobile than the first heavy boxes and also had a handle crank, and this camera allowed the film to be recorded with the different perspectives and numerous changing scenes. The film, I would say, accomplished what it was set out to do, because it conveyed the story in an entertaining manner and gave the overall characters and plot a new life and energy.

Bibliography :

“Hand-Held Camera.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 May 2019,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand-held_camera.

“History of Film Technology.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Sept. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_film_technology.

“Manslaughter (1922 Film).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Sept. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manslaughter_(1922_film).

See the source image