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Archive for February 12th, 2010

by Allan Fish

(USA 1924 81m) not on DVD 

Bring on the clowns 

p  Louis B.Mayer  d  Victor Sjöstrom  w  Carey Wilson, Victor Sjöstrom, Gregory Zilboorg  play  Leonid Andreyev  ph  Milton Moore  ed  Hugh Wynn  m  uncredited  art  Cedric Gibbons  cos  Sophie Wachner

Lon Chaney (Paul Beaumont), Norma Shearer (Consuelo), John Gilbert (Bezano), Marc McDermott (Baron Regnard), Ruth King (Marie), Tully Marshall (Count Mancini), Ford Sterling (Tricaud),

What is it about human nature that makes people quick to laugh when someone gets slapped – whether the slap be spiritual, mental or physical?”  In setting out to answer the question prompted by a caption during the movie, great Scandinavian in Hollywood Victor Sjöstrom gave Lon Chaney one of his finest roles.  An actor of both demonstrative bravado and subtle skill, Chaney was the movies’ first chameleon, a master of disguise, make-up and eccentricity.  And if The Pemalty, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tell it to the Marines and The Unholy Three were also superb personal triumphs for the actor, they just lack that special something that signifies true greatness today.  He, however, to shorten the title in the way that his character is referred in the film, is Chaney’s unheralded greatest film and one of the greatest silent productions of the twenties.  For too long it has been famous for being the then fledging merged studio of MGM’s first major production and for introducing the future king and queen of the MGM lot, Shearer and Gilbert, to stardom.  Yet their romance is the one thing that dates in the whole shebang.  Artistically, however, and in its lead performance, it’s hard to see how it could be bettered. (more…)

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