A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, January 18, 2016

Her Night of Romance (Sidney Franklin, 1924)

They had faces then, as the saying goes. And they needed them because they didn't have voices. Constance Talmadge was not beautiful -- her heart-shaped face was too long, and the profile shots in Her Night of Romance reveal the beginnings of a double chin. It's suggestive that when we first see her in the movie, she is pretending to be ugly -- and succeeding in a hilarious way: When ordered by newspaper photographers to smile and show her teeth, she comes up with a grimace that looks like she's just bitten into a lemon. But she had huge eyes and knew how to act with them, showing what she was thinking -- and often what she was saying. The ugly duckling masquerade is prescribed by the plot, in which she is an American heiress arriving in England and trying to duck fortune-hunters. Naturally the first person who sees through her disguise is an impoverished lord (Ronald Colman), who has just put his mansion up for sale, so the plot (by Hanns Kräly) becomes a series of complications after her father (Albert Gran) buys the mansion. The rest is a series of mistaken identities and misunderstood motives common to romantic comedy. Colman was nearing the peak of the first phase of his career as a movie star, relying on his suave handsomeness and good comic timing. It was a career that lasted 40 years because, unlike many silent stars, he had a speaking voice that was as handsome as his face. Talmadge and her sister Norma, who was also a major silent star, were not so lucky: Neither had received vocal training that would have helped them lose their Brooklyn accents, so they left movies when sound arrived.