I hate this movie so much that I almost can’t write about it. I hate it because the love story is creepy and horrible. I hate it because the hero of the tale is a genocidal rapist and that is portrayed as a-okay in the story. Most of all, I hate it because the talent of Ivan Mosjoukine is wasted on utter dreck. (This was his only American film.) It’s about a Cossack who falls for the rabbi’s daughter (Mary Philbin, hoo boy) and threatens to burn the local Jewish populace alive if she doesn’t sleep with him. Excuse me while I go punch something.
Sometimes, there is just no word for what you want to say. Fortunately, English is something of a linguistic slinky* and so I am going to boldly make up my own words to fit my needs. Naturally, these needs are connected to silent film.
verb | ˈfil-bin
to hire an acclaimed actor, director or other film talent and oblige them to work with a terrible performer who is a box office draw or otherwise in favor with management.
This is named for actress Mary Philbin, a lovely woman who had all the acting talent of a plate of pancakes. She was a friend of Universal head Carl Laemmle’s family and was regularly cast in big roles after her discovery by Erich von Stroheim.
Lon Chaney was philbined in The Phantom of the Opera.** Director E.A. Dupont was philbined with Love Me and the World is Mine. Ivan Mosjoukine was philbined in Surrender.
One of the few performers to escape his philbining relatively unscathed was Conrad Veidt. He and director Paul Leni actually managed to drag something resembling a performance out of her in The Man Who Laughs.
For the record, Miss Philbin actually seemed like a sweet woman and her movie recollections are clear and accurate. I would love to have had a cup of tea with her but I would never, ever have wanted to work with her. The issue actually has more to do with Carl Laemmle than Philbin herself but to “laemmle” someone has many more implications than the narrow definition I require.
*I heard “linguistic slinky” somewhere and don’t remember where. Apologies for no credit for this excellent turn of phrase.
** To double the “n” or not? I didn’t, mainly because the pronunciation “fill-BIND” makes me giggle.
Here’s a movie that no one really wanted to make. Its production was troubled from the very beginning. From professional spats to last-minute recuts and reshoots, it had disaster written across it. So how did this hellish production end up as one of the most iconic and memorable horror films of all time? Does it live up to its reputation? Is it worth seeing for the casual viewer? We are going to engage in a little silent movie archaeology in order to find out.
Conrad Veidt is an illusionist who is in love with his assistant. Unfortunately, she falls for another, leaving Veidt in the dust. Now what will he do about that? Did I mention that he has an act that involves stabbing a trunk (and the person inside) with twelve sharp swords? You know, I think this just might figure into the story at some point.
Continue reading “The Last Performance (1929) A Silent Film Review”
He’s a Cossack prince. She’s the rabbi’s daughter. Can they find love? Also, the hero is a tad bit genocidal. Yes, that is the plot. The unusual duo of Mary Philbin and Ivan Mosjoukine (in his only Hollywood appearance) are star-crossed lovers in this Great War romance. It boasts superb cinematography but the story? Oh my. The main conflict: You always blackmail the one you love.