16 July 2002 | arthursward
Wellman gives birth to talkies during tong war.
Filming of Chinatown Nights as a silent was one-third completed when production was stopped to adapt it to sound. Four days later, dialogue had been written and filming resumed. In the Movietone version that survives, the retained silent sequences sometimes jarringly remind the viewer that the silent cinema was a totally different art form. Over-emoted scenes are dubbed and the result is risable. Indeed, Florence Vidor quit the talkies immediately upon the completion of principle photography and her dubbing is handled by an actress who manages to inject a tremmello into every syllable. However, when the new footage takes over, the film paces itself well. The love story plays true and the Chinese Theatre set piece is rousing. Wellman keeps the camera moving. If you enjoy seeing the birth of a new art form, then you might not mind the man with the megaphone's sloppy looping. His voice will still bark even when the cone goes to his side. And did I mention Warner Oland plays an evil Oriental? Recommended.