18 July 2018 | boblipton
Sweetheart and Other Songs You Won't Hear In This Movie
It's unfair to write a review of an incomplete film and I agree. It's not going to stop me, however, except to note that it's a pity that it is incomplete -- missing, as it does, the last 20, 2-strip-Technicolor minutes -- and that there is serious degradation in the remaining sections, ameliorated by a red tint on the restored print.
Ethel Shannon and Harrison Ford (the silent star, not Indiana Jones) are young lovers in Pre-Civil-War New York, but he is a poor gardener working for her rich father, who insists she marry her annoying cousin. Ford goes out to California to get rich, and returns, just as she has been married, and a scandal is threatened, which he averts by marrying Ethel's cousin, Clara Bow -- surely not a fate worse than death -- and again, the lovers are parted. However, in Jazz Age New York their grandchildren, who bear the same names (and are played by the same actors) know and like each other....
Well, most of that last part is the missing footage, even if the course of events is covered in the restoration's titles and fairly obvious to anyone who knows how dramas of this variety go. It's all based on a hit Broadway show by Cyrus Wood and Rida Johnson Young, with a famous libretto by Sigmund Romberg. The title and score were plundered a decade and a half later for one of the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy movies.
This one is notable for its production values, for its recreation of New York before the Civil War, and for some fine make-up work on the leads, which serve to actually make them look old when appropriate. Also, the actors are very good. They play two sets of very distinct characters, one set of them at various ages, and succeed in making them all believable.
The story may seem corny -- as a modern New Yorker, it's sometimes hard to believe that the Little Old New York shown in this movie ever sat on the same land where skyscrapers now tower -- even though I live in a brownstone whose skeleton was erected before the events of the show took place. Yet, grown old and, yes, sentimental, I like to believe in the reality of such things, and this movie -- the parts of it that, like Old New York, survive -- pleases me greatly.