Thursday, November 30, 2017

FOOLISH WIVES (1922), GREED (1924)

Erich Von Stoheim as the sharply dressed
heart-breaker in Foolish Wives

Foolish Wives
The reputation of maybe the two most famous films (though not necessarily most seen) of Erich Von Stroheim are that of the epic masterpieces that were cut to death by the studio and made almost incomprehensible. Foolish Wives was originally over six hours in length and tells the story of a con man (played by Stroheim) in Monte Carlo who takes advantage of rich women in Monte Carlo. You can really see some of the expense of the picture on the screen with scenery and extras and even in cut form, the plot of the film does flow well enough. There are some moments that do seem to be missing (including the death of Von Stroheim's character) but it is worth seeing for its historical value or if you feel you need to see at least one film from the maestro.

The final act of a selfish man
in Greed
Even more infamous for being cut down to size is Von Stroheim's Greed, which is based on Frank Norris's novel, McTeague. This film was originally over eight hours long...but it kept getting cut and cut and cut...until it was between two and four hours, depending on which version you find. Apparently, there were side stories originally in the film (sounds like Intolerance) that went along with the main story of a dentist's slow descent into greed that are lost to history. To make it harder on myself, the version I found on YouTube to watch had French subtitles-which did indeed make it harder on my viewing. The desert finale is still a fine conclusion and reminiscent of the endings of later classics The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Good,The Bad and The Ugly.

 So long...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


 Bessie Love and Anita Page are too swell
kids trying to hit the big time in The Broadway Melody

The Broadway Melody (1929) is the first all-talking picture to win the Best Picture Academy Award..but I don't think this story of a couple of young musical sister starlet wannabees would be any film buff's choice for the top movie prize of that year. It is clunky in the manner of many of the early talkies and certainly doesn't compare favorably with the later Warner Brother's classics of this ilk like 42nd Street (1933) or Gold Diggers of 1933

However, it isn't without some retrospective charm. Anita Page and Bessie Love as the sisters aren't Joan Blondell and Ruby Keeler, but they are fairly engaging in their own right. The behind the scenes story is a bit silly (as all the plots in these musicals seem to be to a degree), we do hear Give My Regards to Broadway a few too many times for my taste and some of the comic bits do fall a bit it's a mixed bag. But if you're a Best Picture completest (I guess I fall into that category), just relax and try enjoy this artifact like you're Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail or the like if that helps.

For further historical context, I also recommend The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930 by Scott Eyman.

"Don't be such a crab!" An altercation
at auditions in The Broadway Melody