Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fairbanks and Chaney and Veidt (oh my)!

Catching up on some recorded movies while the cable's out (just don't spoil me on True Blood)!

First, we have

The Mark of Zorro (1920)

Most folks already know the mythos, since it's been remade so many times: a masked, Robin Hood-style character defends the common people against corrupt government officials.  Because it's such a familiar story, parts of it that were probably interesting in 1920 come across a bit dull.  However, and this is a BIG however, once Douglas Fairbanks takes over, it's anything but dull!  He plays Don Diego (the daytime alter-ego of Zorro) as strange and effete, constantly pulling little magic tricks in an attempt to impress Lois Lane Lolita (Marguerite de la Motte, who could pass for Dolores Costello).  Lolita is only there because her father wishes her to marry money, and finds Diego boring and awkward.  This only gets worse after a chance run-in with Zorro, who steals her heart.  Little does she know!  *wink wink*

This was the first time I got to see the legendary Fairbanks in action, and oh, those stunts!  Amazing!  At one point I wrote in my notebook "grandfather of parkour".  I was duly impressed by his strength and finesse.  (Hey, that rhymed!)
Silly little thing that I loved:  watch Marguerite de la Motte's hands in the closing scene.  Hee!

I give this one: 

Next one up is

The Ace of Hearts (1921)

A drama with an interesting premise:  a Secret Society exists to rid the world of those who make the world worse instead of better.  The soldier of the Cause, as it were, is chosen via a deck of cards - he who chooses the Ace of Hearts must kill "the man who has lived too long". 

The Society is composed of nine (in numerology, a number of completion) - one woman, Lilith (Leatrice Joy), and eight men, two of whom (Lon Chaney and John Bowers) are in love with her.  She feels no affection for anything but the Cause, until Forrest (Bowers) draws the "lucky" card.   She warms to him and they marry, much to the anguish of Farallone (Chaney, who is just heart-rendingly pathetic in his scenes on the steps).  Love changes a person, however, and suddenly both Forrest and Lilith are unsure of what they're about to do.  Will they still carry out the assassination?  Will Farallone help them, or will his bitterness cause a rift? 

I really liked this movie.  Yes, it was predictable, and hugely overacted (especially by Joy), but it was different than the usual "boy meets girl" plots, and the ending is terrific.   I especially enjoy when Chaney gets to play a man rather than a monster, and uses that beautiful face of his to tell the story just as well as when he's in prosthetic makeup.

I give this one:

The last film I watched before the power went out (of course) was

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

Aaaaaaand then the lights went out.

At the top of my notebook in big block letters:  CREEPY.

The plot has so many twists and turns that you will get dizzy (in a good way) so I will just say this:  Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) has a booth at the annual carnival, presenting Cesare the Somnambulist (which literally means "sleepwalker", but in this movie is more like a zombie).  He sleeps day and night but is still able to tell your fortune upon a command from Dr C.  Two young men (Friedrich Feher and Hans Heinrich v. Twardowski) visit the booth and one asks when he is going to die.  "Before dawn tomorrow," replies Cesare (a very young Conrad Veidt).  Sure enough, Alan (Heinrich) is found dead the next morning.   Francis (Feher) rushes to tell Jane (Lil Dagover, who looks like a cross between Theda Bara and Siouxie Sioux), the woman they are both madly in love with, then off to the police.  Meanwhile, we see Dr Caligari feeding a still-sleeping Cesare, sitting up in his cabinet/casket...

So much has been said about the German Expressionist sets, but they really are striking and heighten the sense of eerie claustrophobia. (An aside: "crooked" is often used to describe the occult.)  They make the film, hands down.

I can't describe any more.  You have to see this.  If you are a fan of modern fare by Tim Burton, you will love the sets.  The plot blows away most of today's "horror thrillers".  It is spooky, nightmarish, and absolutely riveting.   Look for the scene where Caligari staggers through the streets while chased by his own horrible thoughts, quite literally.

I give this one: 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Thank you (and lots of glitter) to FlickChick at the wonderful A Person in the Dark for bestowing this delicious little award on me!   If you don't follow her blog, what are you waiting for?  GO NOW

There are rules, however, and because I'm a good, law-abiding citizen, I will only follow half of them.  ;)   Waaay too many terrific blogs for me to tag, so all you folks - consider yourselves Irresistibly Sweet!I will comply with the Seven Random Facts about myself, however:

• I am addicted to lip balm.  I have one with me at all times.
• Yes, I am a proud Star Wars Nerd™.  Original trilogy, though I did like Sith.
• I'll be 35 next month, or 872 in Tumblr years.
• Smiley faces are my trademark!
• Red is my favorite color.  Especially deep shades like garnet.
• Long fingernails drive me crazy.  I have to keep them cut very short.
• My favorite authors are the Brontes and Oscar Wilde. 

P.S.  After this post went live, I was also awarded the same honor by Rianna of Frankly, My Dear.  Thank you so much! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hollywood Blondes (that have nothing to do with wrestling)

I have a thing for 1930s peroxide blondes.  Hardboiled little things with vanilla-colored hair, tough and fiery and sure of themselves.  They turn up in every pre-Code movie, forever Party Guest #3 or Telephone Operator.  Even though I know they're a Hollywood invention, they've come to represent the Depression for me: women who know a thing or two about struggling and are willing to fight to survive.  Here are three I love:

Jean Harlow is the quintessential example, the Platinum Blonde who started it all.   Sure, she was sexy, but she was also smart as a whip and quick with a comeback.  (She was also very intelligent off-screen, too; one day I'll devote more time to the Baby, one of my favorites.)

Another favorite of mine is Toby Wing, the world's most famous chorus girl.  She never rose to the heights of stardom, but she was in quite a few important films -- yup, that's her getting serenaded by Dick Powell in 42nd Street -- and even though she was usually uncredited, she managed to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I absolutely adore Polly Walters and squeal when she shows up in a movie!  Her career was short, and mostly spent playing telephone operators, but her nasal honk and sweet little face is immensely endearing.  She did very well in Broadway, starring in a hit 1933 show called She Loves Me Not.

Almost everyone tried to go super-blonde when it was popular, with mixed results.  Here's Bette Davis early in her career: 

And here's Joan Crawford, looking, well...let's just say brunette suited her much better. 

(screencap courtesy The Crowd Roars)

Regardless if they're in the lead or only on-screen for a moment, these "broads" with a heart of gold are just one of the things I find so irresistable about the pre-Code era. 

(p.s.  I know I didn't mention Joan Blondell.  Shame on me!  She's fantastic!  Oh - and how could I forget Thelma Todd?  Yikes!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Telling it to the Daisies

and to my readers, too! 

Look for more personal stuff, more things about my life and love of the 20s and 30s, in between reviews.  Because one does not live on movies alone!  ;)

What do you guys think, should I consolidate this blog and Silent Stanzas?  Or should I keep 'em separate?

Since I have it stuck in your head now, here's a little Annette Hanshaw for you.  Blame maudelynn on Tumblr for getting me started.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hartsook Studio, 1916

When I came across his photos, I was struck by how attractive Carlyle Blackwell was.  Not much info exists on him, I let my imagination play a little with this one.  Hope you like it.

"Please put this on, sir,"
she said, her hands
shaking a little as she
held out the freshly pressed suit.
He was the handsomest man
she'd ever seen --
no wonder he was in the flickers.

With a nod and a
"thank you, miss"
he went to change.
With all the primping and posing
for his portrait

did he know she hid behind
the curtain, watching as
they captured it?
One cannot be sure, of course,
but I'd like to think
that after it was over

his solemn eyes began to twinkle
and he turned to her
and smiled.