2 November 2004 | raskimono
Richard Barthelmess gives another great performance
Richard Barthelmess is a strange actor, an actor who performed in silent movies without pantomime. An actor who acted as if he were speaking dialogue. He was so natural an actor that in an era that that needed big gestures and flamboyance to convey emotion, he succeeded in doing this without the need. It is said he could have won many an Oscar if they had them in his hey days but it was not to be. He was nominated though, once. He wasn't one of those stars who died out because his voice didn't match the image when talkies came because his first sound picture was a hit. Rather, it was because he started to choose non-commercial or artsy movies so to speak. I watch them now and wonder who expected them to be hits. There is one movie he made that plays like a "new wave" picture of the sixties. Now to the movie in question. This picture itself is not complex. In some ways, make that lots of ways, it's heavy handed melodrama from Henry King, a man who survived to direct many a big budget sound picture and make one or two really good pictures. Easy to guess, this is a retelling of the David and Goliath story set in a small town where a bunch of really nasty escaped convicts who scream evil come to town. David is a cheerful boy who nobody expects much from. He is just so t'olable. As the nasties bring gloom to the cheeriness of the town, they also end up killing David's father and David is forced to sell the farm because he cannot tend it now that his Dad is dead. His mom in the death scene of his father has the longest heart ache scene I ever seen. She sits still staring into nothingness as her husband is dying for what seems like ten full minutes of screen time. Of course, there is the girl who ignores David because he isn't a man and David must prove himself to his family and the girl and save the town. What happens? Note: Watch for the scene where a sick David drives the horse cart.
Watch Barthelmess and learn the meaning of acting. I watched this movie at a revival house with a live piano score and it heightened a lot of the action and I felt as if I was back in the twenties. Not a great movie, passable entertainment but a good introduction to one of the forgotten silent greats. (If you care to know, this movie was a big hit.)