1925 Studio Tour (1925) Mrs. M.F. Lee, Carey Wilson, Howard Hawks, Documentary, Short

1925 Studio Tour (1925)
Untitled and without any crew credits, this 32-minute silent documentary takes you on a tour of MGM in 1925, meeting the people who create the movies, and watching some of them do it. I found it fascinating, especially when some of the moviemakers were identified by the inter-titles. It was nice to be able finally to attach a face to some familiar names such as writers Agnes Christine Johnston, Jane Murfin, Waldemar Young and others who are identified and shown in closeups. I noted that Howard Hawks was included as a writer – he didn’t start directing until later. Less interesting were the showing of groups of unidentified crew members: about 50 cameramen lined up in a row, each hand cranking their cameras, seemed to serve no useful purpose. Unlike the writers, who were identified individually, the directors were all identified first in an inter-title, and the camera then panned across them standing in a row, but you could not tell which name belonged to which director. I did recognize Erich von Stroheim, but only because he was also a famous actor. When the actors and actresses were introduced as a group by inter-titles, it was much more fun, because identifying them became a game. I also saw three unlisted actors: Ford Sterling, William Haines and Sojin, and there are probably others.

Later on, some actors and some crew members were identified and shown in closeup. I finally got to see what famed art director Cedric Gibbons looked like. And it was delightful to see “the world’s foremost designer,” Romaine de Tirtoff Erte, fitting a gown on “M-G-M’s ‘find’ of 1925,” Joan Crawford, when she was still known as Lucille Le Sueur. I enjoyed famous actors clowning around: John Gilbert puts his hat in position to hide his kissing Zasu Pitts, and Norma Shearer mugs the camera while ‘accidentally’ dropping hundreds of fan letters.

Most interesting were shots of the filming of two movies: Tod Browning directing a scene for Mystic, The (1925), and Edmund Goulding directing Conrad Nagel and Lucille La Verne in Sun-Up (1925). And there’s much more to this enjoyable documentary. It eventually acquired a music soundtrack, which is the way it is shown every once in a while on the Turner Classic Movies Channel (TCM). Unfortunately, it has never been scheduled (probably because it has no title), but is a filler whenever a two-hour slot is scheduled for a silent film that runs less than an hour and a half. It’s worth looking for such a case.

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