Silent Star of the Month for August 2016

It’s a new month and July’s featured star, Harry Langdon, will pass the crown to a new performer. This month’s star is only known for one film but it’s a good one!

The featured star is…

Mona Palma!

Mona Palma (1897-1989)

mona-palma

Mona Palma is obscure even by silent movie standards. She spent most of her brief career at Paramount, where she was initially billed as Mimi Palmeri. She played supporting roles in a few films, never billed higher than fourth, when she finally got a big break in 1926.

Thomas Meighan, one of the bigger stars the studio had to offer, selected her as his leading lady for The Canadian, a remake of his 1917 picture The Land of Promise based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham. Palma hit it out of the park as a sophisticated Englishwoman who must learn to deal with the rough surroundings of Canadian farm country.

If this role sounds similar to the one Lillian Gish played in The Wind, well, just remember The Canadian was released first and I think it quite likely that screenwriter Frances Marion, ahem, “borrowed” a few plot elements. (Stealing from this picture is a Hollywood tradition. The William Wellman-Barbara Stanwyck picture The Purchase Price also helps itself.)

For whatever reason, Palma’s excellent work did not improve her prospects and she was back down to fourth billing. She dropped off the motion picture map in 1927.

Why you should love her:

canadian-head-shakePerhaps it was ahead of its time in 1926 but Palma’s sarcastic, understated performance in The Canadian aligns very well with modern taste. She’s a woman in a bad situation but she is never presented as a damsel. She’s too pragmatic for that. The film goes to very dark places and it is to Palma’s credit that she is able to keep up without resorting to the sort of simpering performance that would ruin everything. (Director William Beaudine deserves kudos as well.)

Where you can see her:

canadian-exactly-what-i-saidOnly one Mona Palma picture may be available but it’s a great one!

The Canadian (1926): I have been gushing over this film ever since I first saw it and I repeat my glowing recommendation here. It’s an excellent character study and an absorbing drama. It’s main plot elements have been plundered by more famous films but you should definitely check out the original.

Read my review here (I also discuss The Purchase Price) and I shall reveal all. Grapevine recently re-released the picture with an upgraded transfer so that should be further incentive to take the plunge.

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