sunlily

IMDb member since November 2005
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Reviews

Bad Girl
(1931)

Slice of Life Depression Era Drama
Bad Girl is included in the new Murnau/Borzage and Fox collection,and kudos to them for making it available! Though an excellent little slice of life film from the Depression Era, I definitely wouldn't say that it compares with Borzage's timeless silent romances, though Borzage's recurrent theme of love conquering all is here to.The lead actors,Sally Eilers, and James Dunn, both do fine jobs, especially Dunn, who paints a very realistic portrait of a "regular Joe", decent kind of a guy. His performance rings true, and he later made a comeback, winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.(1945) This is the story of a young couple's struggle to make it through marriage, finances, and becoming parents. The background story of what was considered "making it" in a poor economy is especially pertinent today. Dunn's character, Eddie Collins, thought it was opening his own radio shop, providing his wife with an elaborately furnished apartment, and getting her the best doctor for her delivery. Not so different from what young couples are facing today! The film is sometimes a bit too wordy, but the slang of the time is a hoot! As one of Borzage's smaller films, it's worth a watch.

The Dragon Painter
(1919)

Lyrical Silent From the Japanese Perspective
The Dragon Painter was long considered lost, but was rediscovered in France and brought to the George Eastman House for restoration. Sessue Hayakawa is probably best known for his performance in The Bridge on the River Kwai, but he was actually a silent film star of some acclaim. This film was made through his own production company in 1919, which proves the power he had attained in Hollywood in the silent era.

The film concerns a slightly mad but brilliant artist Tatsu living in the wilds of Japan and painting exquisite portraits of the dragon that he believes has captured his princess/fiancée. Oddly enough, when he finds his true love, he loses his genius to paint.

The princess is played by Hayakawa's real life wife, Tsuru Aoki, and is beautifully shot from a lyrical Japanese perspective.

Cynara
(1932)

Underrated King Vidor Early Sound Film
Recently I was finally able to see this early sound classic with Ronald Colman and Kay Francis. I haven't seen many movies with the latter, and her understated beauty suits Colman perfectly.

Colman looking elegant in his perfectly tailored suits, plays a conservative and happily married (to Kay, as Clemency) barrister whose life is turned upside down by a chance affair with a shop girl played sensitively by an unknown at the time, Phyllis Barry. King Vidor, the director, took a chance in casting her, but his faith in her ability paid off. She brings just the right touch of pathos and desperation to the role of Doris. (And just happens to resemble Kay more than just a little.) In David Shepard's book on King Vidor several effects within the movie are discussed, such as the movie within a movie scene with Charlie playing the little tramp when they all go to the flickers the night he and Tring (character actor Henry Stephenson in a salty role.) meet the girls, and the fade out scenes of Colman tearing up the paper with the girls address to a scene of Clemency in Venice with her sister and the scraps of paper have dissolved into pigeons in flight.

I would say that this was a different type of role for Colman. Yet even though he plays an adulterous husband, his kindness and tenderness toward Doris is always there, and all parties suffer because of the infidelity. Even in a precode, no one gets away from the consequences of their actions! I highly recommend this movie for Colman and Francis fans and as a fine example of an early Vidor sound movie. I enjoyed it more than Street Scene as the sound quality was better by this time, and the story flowed more smoothly.

Friendly Persuasion
(1956)

Thee Will Like It!
This beautifully adapted film of Jessamyn West's novel is a treasure that I'm sure I'll watch again and again.

The story of a Quaker family caught between their religious principals and the reality of the Civil War is both charming and compelling. Gary Cooper breaks out of his usual roles as the father, Jess Birdwell, who isn't adverse to a bit of fun despite his strict Quaker beliefs, and Dorothy McGuire is perfectly cast as his somewhat fretful but tender minister wife. Phyllis Love is captivating as their romantic teenage daughter, and Anthony Perkins, later unfortunately typecast in some rather oddball roles, puts in a splendid performance as their son Joshua, who is morally torn between his pacifist beliefs and his feeling of duty to protect his family from the invading southern army.

While the backdrop of the story is the rural north and the horrible conflict of the Civil War and how the Birdwell family deals with it, there are so many warm and charming snapshots of family life and the love they have for one another. Plus the score by Dimitri Tiomkin is haunting and sweet and perfectly underscores the feeling of the movie.

I missed this one as a child and I'm so glad that I got to see it at last! P.S. Marjorie Main is cast as a widow woman who is the mother of three rather aggressive daughters who haven't seen a man in far too long! She has great chemistry with Cooper, who seems about to crack up during their screen time together. This is one of the cute little sidebars to this film.

The Light That Failed
(1939)

The Light Fails, but the Performances Shine
"Painting is seeing, then remembering better than you saw." So says Dick Heldar (Ronald Colman), the painter in The Light That Failed.The movie is in the grand old Hollywood style, starring Ronald Colman and a bravura supporting cast that includes Ida Lupino in her first important role, dependable character actor Dudley Digges (who also co-starred with Colman in Condemned.),and a solid performance by the wonderful actor Walter Huston.

The title and opening sequences of the film pretty much give away the fact that Dick will lose his sight. He's blinded by gun powder discharge as he and childhood sweetheart Maisie (Muriel Angelus) are playing with a pistol. Later a wound while fighting in the Sudan is the catalyst for his blindness. He becomes a famous painter, but he's already blinded by ambition, and doesn't really reach his full potential until the point that his sight is leaving him. Enter bad girl Bessie (Ida Lupino), and his self destruction is set in motion. Lupino is very powerful in this role and plays off Colman very well. Her evil tart reminds me of Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage.

Well acted and well directed, this is one of my favorite Colman melodramas.

Le samouraï
(1967)

New Wave French Noir at it's Peak
I watched Le Samourai, and was spellbound from the beginning to the inevitable conclusion. I must say that the casting of Alain Delon was perfect, and of course the director, Jean-Pierre Melville knew it. Delon is a very minimalist actor, and the fact that there's not much unnecessary dialog must have appealed to him. He would've been a fine silent actor. There is a touch of both German expressionism and American noir all through out this film, and that makes it fun to watch and dissect. Turns out director Melville saw a lot of American noir films during the fifties, and sort of stylized his films toward that genre to get the messages out that most interested him. This is a fine movie due to the director's deft touches and Delon's acting. The Criterion edition has some fine vintage (1967) extras that add to understanding the director's approach, and the underlying nuances of the film itself.

The Love Trap
(1929)

Rare Part Talkie Comedy
Along with "Directed by William Wyler," was this rare half silent, half talkie starring Laura La Plante and Neil Hamilton. I liked Laura from "The Cat and the Canary" and "Showboat," and she proved that she could be a good little comedienne in this one.

The first part, and the best in my opinion, is silent. The constraints of early sound made the second half stiff and contrived. The voices were out of sync in places. Laura is a wide-eyed little chorus girl who improbably meets wealthy and handsome Neil as she has been thrown out of her room with all her belongings, and is sitting on the curb. Of course it begins to rain! His taxi passes by, splashes her with muddy water, and he falls for her right then and there. Now that happens every day! But in these fluffy little movies, it did in fact happen every day! It was all in good fun! Laura had a very expressive face that was made for silents, and she's proved her "acting chops" in the three movies that I've seen her in. Neil Hamilton was quite attractive, and had good chemistry with her.

During the second and sound half, Paul's (Hamilton's) uncle recognizes Evelyn (La Plante) from a wild party, and tries to sabotage their marriage. She sets a trap for him to vindicate herself with Paul, and show the uncle's hypocrisy. He had been at the party, a place that he shouldn't have been, but because he's an aristocrat and she's just a poor little chorus girl, he feels she isn't good enough for his nephew. Plus he's misconstrued an incident that happened at the party.

Sound like a familiar scenario? Of course there's the typical happy ending. But I enjoyed the first half of the movie where all the real acting takes place, and it was interesting to see this early Wyler effort. But I can only give it a 6 out of 10. They should have included a better Wyler endeavor in this package.

The Cheat
(1915)

Surprising Early De Mille
Granted I haven't seen too many De Mille silents, but I just watched my new Kino edition of The Cheat, and it has now become my favorite De Mille silent! Very bizarre and dark story that must have had undertones of some hidden fantasies that were going on at the time. I assume this because I have never seen another silent like this one! Sessue Hayakawa was the embodiment of those fantasies, very menacing and naturalistic in his acting style. His every thought played across his face with seemingly minimal effort! He really stole the show from Fannie Ward, whose acting I considered over the top until the last courtroom scene, where it became quite effective in showing her outrage over trying to be possessed like an object by an Asian man. In this scene, she did an excellent job of conveying her affront and humiliation.

The lighting was used to great advantage, immersing the character in a single source of side lighting, which made me think of later movies by some of the German masters. Robert Israel's score was perfect as usual.

A melodrama, but with a twist that makes it fascinating to watch!

A Cottage on Dartmoor
(1929)

Beautifully Realized British Silent
A Cottage on Dartmoor is a late British silent of stunning clarity and poetic justice. The use of the camera to caress the homey accents in Norah's boarding house, the use of mirrors to dramatize the lives and thoughts of the characters, the elongated camera angles of the escaped convict jumping from captivity to freedom, and running from his past into redemption. All of this and more make this late silent itself almost a valentine to the end of the silent era and the dawn of sound.

One of the most poignant scenes in the movie demonstrates this by taking us to a "talkie" that nonetheless has a full orchestra that the camera hones in on and romanticizes.

While this is a tale of obsession, it is also a story of love that has many emotionally tense elements that Norah Baring and Uno Henning handle with dignity and grace. I'm very surprised that I've not heard more about either of these actors.

A Cottage on Dartmoor is a very beautifully realized film that probably wouldn't have been as effective had it been made as a sound movie.

The Sentimental Bloke
(1919)

Sentimental Early Australian Silent
It was a treat to watch this Australian silent, A Sentimental Bloke, with Lottie Lyell, who was called Australia's first movie star. An adaptation of the popular poem by Australian poet C.J. Dennis, the film was humorous and homey. It tells the tale of a ordinary "bloke" whose life is transformed by love. The Australian slang in the title cards made them a real challenge to read, but the acting style is so natural that it's not hard to understand what's going on. Arthur Tauchert, as the bloke, brings just the right amount of roughness and pathos to the part as he undergoes his transformation, and Lottie Lyell as Doreen, just the right amount of working girl toughness and maidenly sweetness. You can tell that she was ill during the shooting of the movie, and she died young of tuberculosis, bringing to an end a fine collaboration with film maker Raymond Longford.

Plein soleil
(1960)

Chilling Original of The Talented Mister Ripley
Purple Noon with Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet,and Marie Laforêt, is the chilling original to The Talented Mister Ripley. The blindingly beautiful Mediterranean background serves as a stark contrast to the lives of three spoiled and amoral characters on holiday in Italy. This original of The Talented Mr. Ripley is far different from the more recent movie, with Delon being more believable as Tom Ripley, his unbelievably handsome face hiding an evil mind, willing to do whatever it takes to trade places with Philippe Greenleaf.

There are some gratuitous shots here for 1960, and I wasn't real impressed with Maurice Ronet,who seemed too old for the part of Philippe, but on the whole, an enjoyable experience with great plot development and cinematography. The movie pulled you in like a day in the Riviera.

The Conquering Power
(1921)

An Alice Terry Tour de Force
I've just watched the Alice Terry, Valentino movie The Conquering Power. While I enjoyed the movie, it didn't have the power and emotional scale of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The story is about the power of love over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The focus here is on the director's wife, Alice Terry, and she's up for the challenge, her lovely face registering a myriad of emotions, but it seemed unrealistic that she fell in love with her own cousin played by Valentino so quickly, that she was willing to wait for him as years passed without word as she was subjected to so much abuse from her father.

The morality angle about the obsession of greed and the way it's depicted as a monster that eventually crushes the person obsessed, really reminded me very much of the movie Greed, but in a much smaller, more intimate little film.

You can tell that there must have been some falling out between the director Rex Ingram and Valentino, as his part is very small and secondary, as compared to the earlier film Horsemen. They never made another picture together, which was a shame. Valentino never got another director who was willing to take the same kinds of risks with him.

Beau Geste
(1926)

Masterful Silent Classic!
I was delighted to see Ronald Colman in the first silent that I've had the pleasure to watch him in! The cast is excellent, and the plot device of starting the movie at almost the end of the story, and going back in time to solve the mystery is unusual for the time and well conceived.

The plot revolves around three brothers, their love for each other, and a missing family jewel called "The Blue Water." The jewel is taken at the beginning of the movie, and Colman's character, the eldest Geste brother, Michael (Beau), is believed to be the culprit. The mystery of who took the priceless jewel and why, is solved as the story slowly unfolds with each brother joining the French Foreign Legion.

The desert shooting in this film is supposed to be some of the best ever photographed and the director, Herbert Brenon manages the Legionaries and Arabs treks across the desert splendidly! A fine cast with Neil Hamilton (Digby Geste), Ralph Forbes (John Geste), Alice Joyce (Lady Patricia Brandon), Noah Berry (Sgt. Lejaune), and William Powell (Boldini) go all out! This film is silent film making at it's best and rarely misses a beat! It will keep your attention from start to finish and is one of those films that must be watched closely in order not to miss out on the plot development and fine nuances of the characters.

I haven't yet viewed the remake with Gary Cooper, but it apparently follows almost verbatim with the original, which is the greatest of compliments!

Cobra
(1925)

Compelling Valentino Performance
It's amazing to me that this compelling Valentino drama didn't do better when it was released! Maybe the audiences of the time wouldn't accept him as anything but the sizzling sheik, but this is an entertaining melodrama. The good news is that since it wasn't shown much, it leaves us with a pristine print. It's a good story with fine acting all around, particularly from Rudolph and Nita Naldi, one of the silent screens most scintillating vamps.

Rudy plays Count Rodrigo Torriani, a charming Itallian ladies man who's always in hot water with the ladies. There are some fine comedic moments at the beginning of the movie when the Count is trying to get himself out of one of these unfortunate situations where his Latin gestures say more than words ever could! During the course of this incident, he meets Jack Dorning,an Ameican antiques dealer who persuades him to come to America and work with him. Upon arrival, the Count falls for Dorning's pretty assistant Mary Drake,played by Gertrude Olmstead, who embodies all the feminine virtues that the Count has secretly been looking for.

The plot thickens as the Count gets himself into more trouble in America by attracting the attention of spoiled society girl Elise, played with aplomb by Nita Naldi. Although she later marries his boss, Jack Dorning, she continues to pursue him with all the wiles at her disposal. There is a sizzling seduction scene where Miss Naldi is dressed in a sexy gown created especially for the movie. The music during this scene conveys the intensity of the moment, and adds to the imagery of woman as cobra, ready to squeeze the life out of an unsuspecting victim.

The movie is slow moving to start, and the ending may seem banal to current audiences, but see this one for an unusual Valentino performance, the lavish production values,and an absolutely beautiful print!

The Delicious Little Devil
(1919)

Not Devlish, But Mae Is Delicious!
This film seemed to run at high speed, but it made the action more hilarious! Mae Murray was the real star, as in this case her eccentricity worked! She plays a poor shop girl impersonating a show girl. She whirls around like a dervish and struts like a diva! It was funny how she presented herself as a Mary Pickford look alike! Over the top works for comedies,wish she had done more of the genre! Poor Rudy had little to do except look beautiful though! But I'm not complaining! I know this was an early effort for him.I guess he and Mae remained friends as he was best man at one of her weddings! This is a cute little rarity, and Mae is a hoot! Fine supporting cast with Harry I.Rattenberry as the father and Richard Cummings as Uncle Barnley being particular stand outs.

Little Old New York
(1923)

A Little of Old New York, A lot of Marion !
Little Old New York, with Marion Davies, is a cute little period piece, nothing heavy, except it is one of her first performances as a comedienne and significant from that standpoint. In most of the movie she's disguised as a boy, although she neither looks nor really acts much like a boy. This isn't important to the story though, as it's equivalent to when an actor plays Abe Lincoln who doesn't look like the real Abe did, but everyone accepts that because it doesn't effect the story at all. You know who he's supposed to be! My favorite parts are the comedy bits when Marion makes her usual hysterical faces and when she dances an Irish jig. I thought they handled the historical aspects of the early part of the ninetieth century quite well. It takes place a the time of the invention and launch of the first steamboat, and several historical persons are portrayed. The sets and costumes are quite authentic looking and add to the ambiance.

Anyone who cares about silent movies and enjoys Marion Davies will like this one!

Laugh, Clown, Laugh
(1928)

Laugh, Clown, Laugh.... The Tears of a Clown
Certainly the tale of the clown who's laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside, is not a new one. But in this version, Lon Chaney makes it his own through the force of his heart rending characterization.

The story of a clown who falls in love with the little girl he's raised as his daughter stops shy of being incestuous because the clown Tito, (Lon Chaney) tries to hide his feelings from the girl, Simonetta.(Played by a very young and exquisite Loretta Young.) Realizing that it's inappropriate,Tito always holds himself in check, but Simonetta is aware because she knows him so well. His realization that Simonetta is now a young lady, and no longer a child is one of the most touching scenes in the movie.The depth of his feeling for her speaks to the anguish of his inner soul, and produces emotional problems for which he seeks the help of a famous internist. The opposite side of the coin is played with aplomb by Nils Asther, whose emotional affliction is uncontrollable laughing,whereas Tito's is crying. Both men's salvation lies in the love they share for Simonetta.

While this is overall a sad movie, there are moments of lightness as well, especially when Tito is performing as Flik on the stage, and when he's trying to get Simonetta to laugh. Bernard Siegel gives fine support as Tito's partner Simon, who performs in the act as Flok.

By the end of the movie, you'll understand the pathos of Simon aka Flok saying, "Laugh, clown, laugh even though your heart is breaking."

Nurse Marjorie
(1920)

Nurse Marjorie or Is Love Really Blind?
Although essentially a light romantic comedy, this William Desmond Taylor feature starring Mary Miles Minter is also a commentary on the class system in the UK, and the discrimination that results from such a system.

Mary plays her role as the aristocratic daughter of a Duke (Marjorie) with charm and a comedic flair. Against her parents wishes, she decides to be a recovery nurse in a nursing home where wealthy clients recuperate. It's perfectly commendable for the daughters of aristocracy to nurse the poor, but not "stockbrokers" as the Duchess of Donegal notes.

One of Mary's patients is a Labor Leader in Parliament whose had eye surgery to correct a squint, and he thinks that Marjorie is the homely nurse that he last saw before going under the gas. Before the bandages are removed, he can't bear to have Marjorie touch him. Marjorie decides to teach him a lesson about discriminating about looks and class, and in the majority of the movie uses subterfuge to test John's feelings for her and see if he's the kind of man she can grow to love.

There are many charming aspects to this movie, not the least of which is the clever dialog and the way Taylor lovingly photographs Mary. There's not the slightest doubt that he liked her and their collaboration was an enjoyable one for both of them. This is the only movie that they made together that still survives and more than exemplifies what was a happy working relationship before tragedy overcame them both in real life.

Is love blind? Well occasionally, but in this case, it just may have a "moral squint" as well! See this charming movie if you can.

Ex-Lady
(1933)

Lighthearted Pre-Code Fun!
Ex-Lady was important as a film way ahead of it's time in content and expression. This was one of Bette's least favorite films, but she also said that it was ahead of it's time. The premise here is that a woman can think and behave the same as a man when given the opportunity.

Bette plays a successful artist, Helen Bauer, who's in love with an equally successful ad man, Don Peterson. (Gene Raymond) At the beginning of the movie, Helen's father has a showdown with Don, sort of like old world meeting new. This gets Don to thinking, and he suggests to Helen that they get married. Helen thinks that marriage kills romance and personal freedom, so she refuses him initially. Later in the movie, she accepts his proposal and they marry, combining their careers. This would be quite a challenging proposition even today, and the inevitable happens. Don becomes somewhat insecure and begins an affair with the bored wife of a client.

Bette decides that this is all the fault of a traditional marriage, just like she had told Don in the beginning. They decide on a trial separation, but when this doesn't work any better than the ordinary marriage arrangement they had before, they agree to make a go of their marriage.

There are two very surprising, but not so surprising moments in this pre-code film. One is at the beginning of the movie, when Don lets himself into Helen's apartment after a party and it's obvious that the two have an ongoing relationship sans marriage. The other is while they're on honeymoon in Cuba and it's apparent that something is going on under the table and behind the shrubbery at a nightclub/restaurant! See this movie to see a stunning, blonde Bette Davis at the beginning of her career and for pure pre-code, lighthearted fun!

Miss Lulu Bett
(1921)

Solid Early Woman's Film
This is one of the few William deMille films to get a revival and a wonderful example of an early woman's picture and tale of transformation.

Lois Wilson plays an unmarried woman and household drudge in her sister's home who is abused mentally by her brother-in-law. Her trap is one of economics rather than completely her own insecurity, as we feel that Lulu in the back of her mind knows that she has much to offer! She is exploited because that's all she's ever known, and in no small part because of society's views on unmarried women at the time.

There is a very clever use of props and title cards in this movie because it was obviously made on a small budget. In one scene where she's doing dishes with her would be boyfriend, a title card reads, "Doing dishes isn't always a bad thing." The scene then continues to a very sweet sequence where he asks her how to dry the inside of a glass, she shows him, and he thumps his head as if to say, "What an idiot I am!" The actors all do a very fine job with body language and expression.

This rare example of William deMille's work as a producer and director is based on a Pulitzer Prize play and novel by Zona Gale and is directed and acted with understanding and discernment.

Watch it to see the differences between William and Cecil's style and for characterizations that are concrete and empathetic!

Mr. Skeffington
(1944)

The Vanity of Fanny
Another great Bette Davis Warner Brother's classic with a wonderful, understated performance by Claude Rains. This film highlights the fact that vanity is a deadly sin.

Bette once again gets to play an unsympathetic character and is not afraid to show herself in an unflattering light when the script calls for it. She portrays Fanny Trellis, a woman who is so self absorbed that she's out of touch with her family and the world around her. Her whole world revolves around her beauty and the beau's she can attract and toy with. She is so selfish that she will do anything to advance her own self interest, including marrying a wealthy man, played with restrained dignity by Claude Rains, who knows that Fanny doesn't love him. Interestingly enough, his character is named Job and he has the patience of Job in dealing with Fanny, even to the point of allowing her to continue her innocent flirtations with other men. Or are they innocent in the fact that they are so manipulative? Their marriage quickly disintegrates as the years go by and we can't blame Job for seeking comfort elsewhere. They eventually divorce, and Fanny gives up custody of their daughter to pursue her own shallow interests. One of the major reasons that she does this is that she doesn't want her admirers to know how old she is.

In the end, Fanny becomes ill and loses the one thing that she cares about, her looks. She has to learn the hard way that "A woman is only truly beautiful when she's loved." Bette's character is redeemed in the end when she takes her blind husband back in. But I believe that she only does this because he is blind and can't see that the devastating effects of her illness have aged her beyond her years.

The movie is a bit long and I think Bette's performance is a little melodramatic, but it's a wonderful, poignant film and a great morality play on the sin of vanity. It is interesting to note too that Bette only got to play this part after Merle Oberon and Hedy Lamaar had both turned it down.

The Bishop's Wife
(1947)

A Christmas Treat for All Ages
I was delighted when I saw this film again for the first time in years. It truly warms the cockles of your heart and is right up there with It's A Wonderful Life as standard Christmas fare that reminds all of us what the season is really about.

From the moment Cary Grant appears as Dudley, the all too human angel on a mission, we are riveted to the screen. He's out to teach Reverend Henry Brougham (David Niven), a thing or two about Christian charity, and as we all know, "charity begins at home." It seems that in the process of trying to raise funds for a new cathedral, the good Reverend has been neglecting his charming wife, played in her sweet, dignified way by the beautiful Loretta Young.

But Reverend Brougham has also forgotten that his flock needs more than a new cathedral- they need hope, faith and charity and his ministry, which he has forsaken in his quest to court the richest lady in town to donate funds for the new cathedral. Cary's Dudley is out to bring these truths home to him.

But Dudley doesn't just touch the Reverend's life, he brings joy and hope into everyone's life that he comes into contact with.

There's a wonderful skating scene where a taxi driver, Sylvester, played by prolific character actor James Gleason, gets to feel like a kid again and have fun with Julia, (the Reverend's wife, Loretta Young), and Dudley. This scene brought a smile to my face! All the supporting cast are excellent with Gleason, the Professor (Monty Woolley) and the maid, (Elsa Lanchester) being particular stand outs. But Cary steals the show as the irrepressible Dudley.

In the end, you feel that this angel has truly earned his wings! Settle back and get ready to be charmed!

Torrent
(1926)

Garbo's First American Film- A Prelude of Things to Come
Greta Garbo's American film debut is an analogy of how our lives can be swept off course by fate and our actions, as in a torrent, causing us to lose a part of ourselves along the way.

Greta plays Leonora, a poor peasant girl in love with Ricardo Cortez's character Don Rafael, a landowner. Ricardo is in love with her too, but is too easily influenced by his domineering mother. Leonora ends up homeless and travels to Paris, where she becomes a famous opera singer and develops the reputation for being a loose woman. In reality, part of her attitude is bitterness over Rafael's abandonment.

She returns to her home to visit her family and eventually confronts Rafael. Surprisingly, no one knows that she's the famous La Brunna, and Garbo acts up her role as the diva she truly was and re prised with such cool haughtiness in her later portrayals.

Ricardo Cortez reminds one a lot of Valentino in looks in this part, and he was groomed to be a Valentino clone by MGM, though he never thought he could be in reality and he was right. He is believable in an unsympathetic part as a weak willed Mama's boy, and allows himself to age realistically but comically at the end of the movie. He fails to win Leonora when she returns home, and later when he follows her, his courage is undermined.

This movie is beautifully shot, with brilliant storm sequences and the sets depicting Spain at the time are authentic looking. There are also some fine secondary performances by old timers Lucien Littlefield, Tully Marshall, and Mack Swain.

Although this is a story of lost love and missed chances, I don't think Leonora and Rafael would have been happy together, as he needed a more traditional wife and she was very much a career woman, and I don't think would have been happy in a small village. The ending is true to life and pulls no punches.

See this one as Garbo's American film debut and a precursor of things to come

The Cabin in the Cotton
(1932)

Feudalism in Thirties America
As a social issue picture and an early breakout effort of Bette Davis, this movie shines! Miss Davis devours every scene she's in with her typical gusto! And it's her first performance as a Southern belle and contains the famous line, "Ah'd love t'kiss you, but Ah jes washed mah hayuh." Richard Barthelmess plays Marvin Blake, a poor sharecropper's son, to whom Bette's character Madge is drawn. The only problem is that Richard was thirteen years older than Bette and too old to be playing this part and it shows. This is not helped by the fact that he spends a large part of the picture overly made up. But he does a fine job and when he gets to play a wonderful scene at the end of the movie, giving an eloquent speech on behalf of the poor tenant farmers from whom he came, he relishes the opportunity! The tension of the movie is contained in Marvin's torn loyalties, the division of the haves and the have nots, and his physical attraction to Madge.

My Mom, who watched this movie with me, commented that Bette was hyperactive, which goes a long way to explain her constant motion! This is a movie that explores feudalism in Thirties America and is a good commentary on injustice. The photography is lovely and it's directed by Michael Curtiz. (Casablanca) See it if you get the chance and enjoy!

The Single Standard
(1929)

Restrained Garbo Performance
Now here is one of my favorite romantic pairings, yet I had mixed feelings about this late silent with Greta Garbo and Nils Asther. This is mostly due to the fact that I don't think the characters or the background are developed enough to make the whole cohesive.

A case in point is the suicide of the chauffeur in the beginning of the movie. He and Arden (Garbo) are having a love affair, but for some reason, when he's dismissed, he inexplicably wrecks the car, committing suicide. I was wondering, " What in the world!" because there wasn't enough background on this character to understand why he would make a decision like that.

Arden believes in, as she puts it, " living life freely, without restraints," and we believe at the end of the movie that she is going to sacrifice her husband and adorable little son to do that, but she makes the traditional choice and stays. I realize that was the best decision and I don't think the audience would've had much sympathy for her had she gone away with Packy (Asther), but I wonder if that's the choice her character would realistically have made given what we know about her before.

This movie is beautifully photographed and lit, and the secondary actors are enjoyable as well! ( Johnny Mack Brown is a doll!)The director John S. Robertson gets a sensitive, restrained performance from Garbo. The love scenes are idyllic and tender.

Watch this one for the Greta and Nils, but the story doesn't completely gel for me! P.S. Packy's hair has oddly turned white in the front during a trip to China!

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