Lost Film Files #24: Red Hot Romance (1922)

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Red Hot Romance (1922)

Status: Fragments survive in the Library of Congress

Today, I will be featuring a forgotten film that is most notable for who was behind the camera. Victor “Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz” Fleming directed. Anita Loos and John Emerson wrote the script. The film was praised for its wit but has been overlooked in the years since its release. (Anita Loos is best remembered today as the author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes but she had been involved with the motion picture industry since the pre-feature era, selling her first screen scenarios to Biograph studios to be filmed by D.W. Griffith.)

The scenario was originally meant as a vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks before being shelved, according to Picture-Play Magazine’s review:

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There is no doubt about the burlesque in this picture, however, and very amusing burlesque it is, too. They do say that the play of this jazzed melodrama was once written seriously for Douglas Fairbanks. But it got shelved somehow and “years later,” as the subtitles”‘ say, John Emerson and Anita Loos got hold of it. What “The Tavern” is to the inn melodramas and what “Captain Applejack” is to the pirate yarns, this tale is to the “Graustark” school of romance where the clean-cut specimen of American man- hood gets stuck in a hostile little island and proceeds to show how superior he is to any other kind of hero. This kingdom’s name is “Bunkonia,” which gives you an idea of the plot. Needless to say it is carried over chiefly by the glorious titles of Miss Loos.

And here is a small profile from the same magazine. It describes the story as clever. Please note that Miss Loos was in fact 34 when the story was published.

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She is coauthor and co-everything with her husband, John Emerson, of one of the cleverest pictures of the year, “Red Hot Romance.”

Photoplay was enthused about the film:

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A sure fire hit if there ever was one. This remarkable combination of keen edged satire and sure-fire melodrama, which was written and produced by the indefatigable team of John Emerson and Anita Loos, is described by them as “a tale of young love and old hokum.”

The description is about as descriptive as it is possible for any description to be. For “Red Hot Romance” is a remarkably good burlesque of a ham film. So effective is it, that there are moments when even the most cynical and sophisticated observer will be tempted to rise out of his orchestra chair and cheer. The hero (like all heroes) is a young American who is pining for romantic adventure. The heroine (like all heroines) is a high bred American girl, who is yearning for love. The plot’s laid in South America. The leading parts are well handled by Basil Sidney and May Collins, and the entire cast enters into the spirit.

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Loos and Emerson describe the story in their 1921 book Breaking into the Movies:

“Red Hot Romance” is played as a romantic melodrama, but is intended as a satire upon this very type of story, with its incredibly heroic hero, its American girl, its marines-to-the-rescue and all the rest of it.

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If you are curious about the story, the book also includes the complete scenario! Nice!

It looks like quite a silly affair with characters named things like Senor Frijole, Madam Puloff de Plotz and Lord Howe-Green.

Attics. Check ’em!

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The New York Hat (1912) A Silent Film Review

Pastor Lionel Barrymore receives a strange mission from a parishioner (the wife of the town miser) who has recently passed away: He is to take the money she has left and buy her daughter, Mary Pickford, little luxuries that she has been denied. The Pastor starts by buying Mary a pricey hat from New York. Little does he know that this kindness will start a frenzy of gossip.

Continue reading “The New York Hat (1912) A Silent Film Review”

Lost Film Files #9: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928)

Status: Missing and presumed lost

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The famous 1953 film starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe was the second film incarnation of the 1925 Anita Loos novel. Well, actually, it was adapted from a musical version that was based on the novel but let’s not split hairs. The plot of gold-digging was quite current for the 1920’s and the novel (again following a stage adaptation) was brought to the screen in early 1928.

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The roles that would later go to Russell and Monroe were played by Alice White and Ruth Taylor. Sennett veterans Chester Conklin, Ford Sterling and Mack Swain have supporting roles. Holmes Herbert (who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite forgotten silent actors) is on hand as one of the rich targets for matrimony.

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Photoplay raved:

WHETHER or not you read Anita Loos’s laugh provoking “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” you are certain to go into ecstasies when you witness the picturization of the tale. It is sure to be one of the outstanding comedy screen successes of 1928. First, because it is a laugh compelling tale of a beautiful but far from dumb gold digger, who took men like Grant took Richmond. Only much faster! Her triumphant climb from a small Arkansas town to Little Rock, Hollywood, New York, and, finally, Paris, along a road that she left strewn with shattered hearts and swains from whom she had painlessly extracted jewels and gowns and the wherewith to make it possible for her to live and pursue her educational quest, is absorbingly pictured.

Second, because it will bring to you a new screen personality in Ruth Taylor as Lorelei Lee. You are going to love her. She was selected for the role after a nation-wide search and proves herself so capable an actress in this role that she has been placed under a long term contract by Paramount. The fat laugh lines are in the very capable hands of Alice White, the living embodiment of Dorothy.

Ford Sterling as the Chicago Button King will cause you to laugh until you cry, and Mack Swain will make you laugh some more. Holmes Herbert as the eligible millionaire bachelor gives a great performance. Chester Conklin and Trixie Friganza add to the gaiety. Mal St. Clair has turned out a delightfully handled production that keeps him in the forefront of directors. Atop of all this, the picture is titled by Anita Loos, an assurance of an evening of laughter.

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Motion Picture News said:

It is good entertainment and stirs up some good humor.

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Ruth Taylor, in spite of her success in the role, did not stay in motion pictures. She quit the movies to marry a millionaire.

Please check the basement, the attic, the safe deposit box, the estate sale of that crazy old guy down the street…