The plot in one sentence: Daddy, buy me a prince right now!
Ossi Oswalda is a nouveau riche American girl who is determined to marry into German nobility. Harry Liedtke is a penniless prince hounded by creditors. It should be simple but director Ernst Lubitsch has other plans! Slightly naughty but mostly nice, this clever romantic comedy is one of the gems of German cinema.
If you asked me to pick just one movie that perfectly captured the spirit of romanticized rural America, it would be this one. Richard Barthelmess gives the performance of a lifetime as a gentle lad who faces a coldly brutal world and is forced to grow up overnight. Contains violent passages yet it maintains its sweetness. Simple yet packed with symbolism. This one is a classic for a reason.
If it were a dessert it would be:
Maple Glazed Donuts. Thoroughly New World. It may seem like an old hat but it is done so well that it’s a revelation.
William S. Hart hangs up his cowboy hat in this cops-and-robbers tale of post-War San Francisco. Hart is a veteran and ex-crook who comes back from his doughboy stint a changed man. The robber is now a cop and he is forced to investigate his old friends and his own family. Good enough but no classic. Worth it for vintage footage of San Francisco.
If it were a dessert it would be:
Rocky Road Ice Cream. You got your cool stuff, your dark stuff and your fun stuff. An old hat but welcome all the same.
Valentino’s career was revitalized by going… Russian? Yep, this Robin Hood tale turned out to be an ideal vehicle for him. Valentino is heroic, romantic and surprisingly funny (he had an underused gift for comedy). Essentially a dress rehearsal for Son of the Sheik. Vilma Banky was a marvelous leading lady but the show was thoroughly stolen by Louise Dresser as a man-eating Catherine the Great. A film for anyone who thinks they don’t like Rudolph Valentino.
This movie is sick. I’m just getting that out of the way now. Lon Chaney stars, Tod Browning directs. Could it be any other way? Lionel Barrymore steals Chaney’s wife and breaks his back. So Chaney drags himself off to Africa where he plans his revenge for eighteen years or so. It’s a sweaty, grimy and totally un-PC. Chaney is a deranged villain but he also gives one of his most heart-breaking performances. Seek out this twisted little gem if you have the stomach for it. If it were a dessert it would be:
Note to villains: If you want get the hero out of the way by framing him, just make sure he doesn’t get the cell next to the crazy old guy who knows where to find a fabulous treasure. Cuz, you know, he may come back for revenge.
It has a pre-Great Lover John Gilbert and Estelle Taylor playing a good girl for once. It is a little rushed but overall a pretty dern good adaptation.
She is Mary Pickford, spunky orphan who is being sent to college by a mysterious benefactor. He is the mysterious philanthropist who reads Mary’s letters but never writes back. But just who is Daddy Long Legs? And why is he so interested in Mary’s romances?
Cleo Ridgely is in the “repent at leisure” stage of her hasty marriage to a ne’er-do-well. Then she gets a chance to play Cinderella when her wealthy employers need a beautiful woman to keep would-be investor Wallace Reid hanging around.
Would-be opera singer Corinne Griffith accidentally gets a job in a girly show. Rescued by seamstress Louise Dresser, the pair escape to Monte Carlo. Passing herself off as Louise’s aristocratic daughter, Corinne falls for rich boy Charles Ray. But how long can Louise and Corinne keep up the act? Bubbly, zany and thoroughly Jazz Age, this romantic comedy is a wacky blast of fun. Don’s miss this proto-screwball. Continue reading “Fun Size Review: The Garden of Eden (1928)”
Clara Bow takes on both Ernest Torrence and Percy Marmont in this battle of sexes, classes and generations. City girl Clara has married backwoodsman Torrence in haste and is at the “repenting in leisure” stage. Things perk up when Marmont shows up and Clara shows him just what made her the IT Girl. Sassy, brash and funny as anything, this film is an ideal showcase for Bow, who manages to steal the show from everyone.
It’s Cinderella for the 1920s! Colleen Moore is a put-upon waif who enters a motion picture beauty contest and wins. She finds fun, fame and fortune in Hollywood but who will be her Prince Charming? Colleen has never been cuter. Features some excellent sight-gags (including the famous and acclaimed eye-crossing scene) and a cameo from Harry Langdon. Beloved for a reason.
Cecil B. DeMille-helmed tale of sordid revenge. Fannie Ward dips into the Red Cross funds to gamble on the stock market and loses all. Sussue Hayakawa is her platonic pal who will loan her the money if she becomes… less platonic. Things get nasty very fast. Lean and slick with a star-making performance from Hayakawa. Ward, however, emotes egregiously. Not for the easily offended.
John Barrymore is a gentleman crook out to steal a priceless necklace. Frank Morgan (aka, Oz the Great and Powerful) is his best pal Bunny. Yes, Bunny. A shady lady from John’s past threatens to ruin everything but our hero is clever and intrepid. Fun plot and story done in by plodding pace and way too many intertitles. Morgan and Barrymore are the best things in the film but they cannot save it.
Soviet serial in the American style with a dash of German. It’s the tale of four California-born pals who uncover a nefarious plot to attack Russia with poisonous gas. A crazy-quilt of styles. It is a ton of fun to see how the west coast of the USA is portrayed in a film made 100% on Russian soil. Turnabout is fair play, Hollywood has made its share of Russian-set tales. Beautiful, strange and quite often wondrous.
Valentino’s swan song and it is a humdinger, let me tell you. Rudy is back as both father and son, Vilma Banky is the leading lady, Karl Dane supports and Montagu Love provides the villainy. Plot stays pretty much the same as the first: Boy loves girl, boy kidnaps girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Slicker, sleeker, smarter and more (intentionally) humorous than the first time around (though still not without its controversy). Showcases Valentino to perfection.
Have a spare 5 hours? Sure you do! For this you do. Legendary French serial expert Louis Feuillade creates the crazy-addictive tale of a caped crusader, a vamping criminal mastermind and some really cute kids. Judex is a mysterious avenger out to right the wrongs performed by a corrupt banker. It starts with threatening notes and escalates to murder (or does it?). Fast, funny, exciting and highly addictive.
Mary Pickford: Tenement kid, daughter of an Irish cop. William Haines: Big brother of her arch-rival and a would-be gangster. Mary loves William. He thinks she’s a kid. However, when he is framed for the murder of Mary’s father, she is the only one who can save him. Haines and Pickford are cute as proverbial bugs (could they be anything else?) but the thin plot does not use them to their full potential.
D.W. Griffith offers adventure, romance, exotic climes, a leering camera and Carol Dempster to the viewing public. The viewing public says: “Thanks but no thanks.” Carol is a zany teen determined to save her father from a murder charge in this kitchen sink (as in everything but) caper. Oh, Dad’s guilty, Carol just doesn’t want him arrested. Unlikable characters, an inexperienced leading lady and far too little Richard Barthelmess doom this picture. Dempster is good at the stunts. Acting, not so much.
Hobart Bosworth plays an old lighthouse keeper who has adopted the castaway, Baby Peggy. Local do-gooders are annoyed at his unorthodox parenting but he and little Peggy love one another. However, what will happen when Peggy’s real family comes to claim her? Sweet but never simpering. Heart-warming but never trite. This is family entertainment that the grown-ups can enjoy too. Highly recommended.
Gloria Swanson has a problem. Her husband, Thomas Meighan, has purchased her a negligee! The degenerate! And he listens to fox trot music, if you please! Thomas is soon driven into the waiting arms of Bebe Daniels. Realizing her mistake, Gloria dons designer duds in a bid to win him back. Cecil B. DeMille’s best marital comedy, it is spunky and fast-paced. Excellent performances by all the leads make the film memorable. Worth seeing for Bebe and Gloria’s costumes alone.
Frank Capra’s first film of many for Columbia Pictures and his trademark optimism-amongst-poverty is already in place. Viola Dana is a tenement beauty determined to marry money. Ralph Graves is a rich wastrel who meets Viola, falls for her and marries her the same night. Everything would be fine except that Ralph’s father disinherits him and Viola is back at square one. What to do? Start a business, of course! Capra’s offering delights with charming script and a brisk pace and the leads are engaging.
Hobart Bosworth is (and this may shock you) a sadistic ship captain. Bessie Love is the little castaway who warms his heart and awakens fatherly feelings. But when the captain discovers that poor Bessie just may be the daughter of his enemy, things start to get mean. Love and Bosworth are delightful in their father-daughter relationship and the seafaring scenes are swell but predictable plot prevents this film from being a classic.
Director D.W. Griffith took a creaky melodrama and… kept it creaky! Lillian Gish is used and tossed aside by a rich creep. She stumbles onto Richard Barthelmess’s farm, where the whole family embraces her with open arms. Then said rich creep shows up. Works surprisingly well thanks to great work from Gish and Barthelmess, as well as one of Griffth’s very best Races to the Rescue™… On Ice! (On tour this winter!)
Raised as a boy aboard ship, Leatrice Joy feels it is high time to get a fella. Armed with magazine relationship advice, she goes ashore and sets her cap at the first man she sees, William Boyd. He is annoyed by the over-eager Leatrice and rebuffs her. Leatrice shanghais him and soon he is beginning to think this kidnapping thing is not so bad. Boyd and Joy are a delight in this breezy adventure-comedy.
John Barrymore romps through medieval Paris playing a character best described as Robin Hood + Hobo + Bugs Bunny. His pranks cause him to run afoul of the crown. Conrad Veidt (in his American debut!) plays the king as a superstitious, nose-picking goblin. Oh, this movie is fabulous! It’s a double ham dinner with all the trimmings. Takes a turn for the serious near the end (boo!) but is an utter delight until then. One of silent Hollywood’s stranger offerings. See it.