Monday, August 30, 2010

Gilbert-O-Rama: Coming Soon!

Thanks to the help of a generous friend, I now have a whole disc of John Gilbert movies just waiting to be ripped apart reviewed!  Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Ballad of the Beautiful Slacker

George Jack Warren Kerrigan
was Indiana raised,
followed Dad in warehouse work
'til theatre filled his days.

With thick dark hair and hazel eyes
they crowned him "Gibson Man",
And Essanay was quick to act
(hey, grab 'em while you can!)

He soared into the stratosphere
As star of Flying A,
Then on to Universal - he was
King of Photoplay.

But even demigods must fall
and he was no exception.
His stance on the Great War was one
of natural selection:

Why send great talent overseas
when they were filled with beauty?
Send over lesser working men
to fight, their nation's duty.

Such comments stole his princely spot,
it never to recover.
And other questions followed him -
Where was his lady lover?

He didn't think that picture stars
Should anchor to another.
"It doesn't seem quite fair," he said,
"Besides, I have my Mother."

The Covered Wagon brought back fame
from his obscurity,
A few more films, then he retired -
to James (and privacy).

His films and face are lost, but Jack
Knew this the way of art.
"I have had my day...and I
Loved it with all my heart."

J Warren Kerrigan

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Lady of Chance (1928)

(There is a sound version, with a smattering of dialogue added.  My review is for the silent one.)

I'm starting to really like Norma Shearer!  She comes across as very natural onscreen - and when she is a bit affected, she's cute and spunky enough that you don't mind.  This, her last silent film, finds her as Dolly, aka Angel Face, a grifter who thinks she's found an easy mark in trusting country boy Steve Crandall (Johnny Mack Brown - who always does well in these "gosh-golly-gee" roles).  Once she marries him, however, and makes her way back to his Southern "plantation", she finds herself falling in love with him despite things not being quite what she'd expected.  When her old partners in crime, Brad and Gwen (a convincingly oily and smarmy Lowell Sherman, and the appropriately hard-boiled Gwen Lee) show up at Steve's home looking for a piece of the action, does Dolly admit her past - or let Steve be taken for everything he's got?

It's a funny, good-hearted film, with clever intertitles.  Also:  keep your eyes open for a silly little cameo by Polly Moran.

I give this one: 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blog Crossover

Most of you know that I keep another blog, Silent Stanzas, where I write poetry about silent film stars.  Last night, however, this popped into my head, and I thought I'd post it here.

nitrate soul

needs to be cherished
need to be loved...

or they

and sour

and crumble


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Yankee Princess

Just a precious little thing,
Under Mr Griffith's wing
Another "baby star" would start
Next to Fairbanks, Stone and Hart.
Ingénue or flapper, she
Triumphed with skill and fresh beauty;
And truly, there will never be


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Their Own Desire (1929)

Don't worry, Bob!  I'll find your top hat if it's the last thing I do!

Usually I wince my way through early talkies; stilted dialogue and static direction makes them tough to sit through.  Not this one - and it's all due to the amazing chemistry between Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer (which you'll see again in When Ladies Meet, Strangers May Kiss and the excellent The Divorcee). 

Lewis Stone plays Henry Marlett, a man having an affair and getting ready to leave his wife; when his daughter Lally (Shearer) finds out, she hardens her heart towards her father - and every man.  That is, until she meets John (Montgomery) while on a trip with her mother.  Are they meant for a life of romance?  Or are there circumstances at work beyond their control?

Snappy dialogue, good performances by the entire cast (Shearer was nominated for an Academy Award - ultimately losing to herself in The Divorcee), and a surprisingly exciting mix of romance and drama take this little soaper above the norm for its era. 

Plus, let's be honest.  Early, devil-may-care Bob Montgomery is always a delight to watch.  ;)

I give this one: