Vanity Fair is one of the most enduring classics of English literature. It’s been a century and a half since it was published and readers have still not tired of the adventures of Becky Sharp.
This Silent Movie Trivia Card concerns the 1926 romantic swashbuckler, Don Juan. It’s most famous for the epic duel between John Barrymore and Montagu Love and the fact that it was one of the earliest films released with a synchronized score. Noir fans will also enjoy the presence of Mary Astor playing the very opposite of the femme fatale. (You can read my review of the film here.)
Like last week’s card, the question revolves around a soon-t0-be-famous performer. In this case, a woman who was typecast as vamps but who would seen be famous as both a witty comedienne and America’s “perfect wife,” a title she despised.
Availability: Don Juan was released on DVD with its original score. While historically important, I must admit to not being a fan of the music. It’s just to fast, high and perky for the at-times dark tale.
Here is a fun little curio from Photoplay. Natacha Rambova, aka Mrs. Rudolph Valentino, aka Winifred Shaughnessy of Salt Lake City, was in the process of making What Price Beauty? when she decided to cross-market her hair-dos to Joan Q. Public. One of the models is a young actress who was discovered by the Valentinos, Myrna Loy.
While the article seems to indicate that Rambova invented the model head for the beauty shop, I find that highly unlikely. (In fact, I take just about everything she ever claims with a rock of salt.) The cross-promotion aspects may be unique but I am reserving judgement.
My favorite style is the one modeled by Myrna Loy. In fact, I often have a very similar (albeit less pointy) haircut. And I can assure you that it works extremely well in the kitchen
Rambova wrote the screenplay for What Price Beauty? (the film is now considered lost) and was assisted by some of the soon-t0-be biggest names in Hollywood glamor: Adrian and William Cameron Menzies.
Rambova was a talented costume designer but, like many talented people, she did not know when to quit. As the costume designer/art director trying to take over an entire film is not generally welcomed by directors, producers or actors, Rambova’s career petered out. (Or she left in a huff, depending on who you believe.)
I don’t like to be one of those “blame the ex” people but her designs for Monsieur Beaucaire, while lavish and lovely, were spectacularly ill-advised as Valentino was trying to burnish his manly man credentials and such a thing is all but impossible in satin, lace and a powdered wig. (Grapevine released the film on DVD, should you care to see Valentino in knee-breeches. I do not judge.) Of course, Beaucaire was also a bit of snoozer and managed to waste the charms of its talented leading ladies, Bebe Daniels and Lois Wilson, so it is unfair to lay all the blame at Rambova’s door.
On the other hand, Rambova deserves kudos for trying to make her own career and for being able to use her freedom to leave Theodore Kosloff, a spectacularly annoying performer who was also rumored to be abusive. In any case, enjoy her hair designs.
It’s time to give a little attention to one of my favorite screen teams, a couple so famous in the talkies that most people do not even realize that they started in the silents: William Powell and Myrna Loy.
John Barrymore takes on the role of one of history’s great lovers. Raised to be a libertine, Don Juan romances his way across Europe until he ends up in Rome and runs into something completely different: a nice girl (Mary Astor). Unfortunately, she is promised in marriage to a Borgia. I think a little action is called for.
Continue reading “Don Juan (1926) A Silent Film Review”
He’s a sheik. She wears chic clothes. He lives in a tent. She lives in a manor. He fights enemy tribes. She fights hat hair. Getting a date with her is out of the question.
Backup plan: Abduction. Obviously.