Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s experimental film grew out of his belief, shared by his editor, Elizaveta Svilova (who was also his wife), and his cinematographer, Mikhail Kaufman (also his brother), that the true goal of cinema should be to present life as it is lived. To that end, the filmmakers offer a day-in-the-life portrait of a city from dawn until dusk, though they actually shot their footage in several cities, including Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa. After an opening statement, there are no words in the film (neither voice-over nor titles), just dazzling imagery, kinetically edited – as a celebration of the modern city with a marked emphasis on its buildings and machinery. The Image Entertainment DVD edition of the film offers a musical score composed from notes left by the director, which adds greatly to the impact of the film.
Tag Archives: 1920s
Devil-May-Care (1929) Sidney Franklin, Ramon Novarro, Dorothy Jordan, Marion Harris, Musical, Romance
Silent screen heartthrob Ramon Novarro (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ) sounds off in his all-talking debut, a romantic musical adventure directed by Sidney Franklin. When Napoleon is exiled to Elba, loyal officer Armand de Tr?ville (Novarro) manages to elude the firing squad only to find his heart captured by Leonie de Beaufort (Dorothy Jordan), the lovely Royalist who turns him in. Making a daring escape, Armand hides with the Countess Louise (Marion Harris), unaware that Leonie is her cousin. Leonie’s sudden arrival forces him to choose between love and war as he awaits the emperor’s return. Featuring a two-color Technicolor® ballet sequence scored by future Oscar®-winner* Dimitri Tiomkin, plus seven new songs by Herbert Stothart and Clifford Grey, Devil-MayCare was one of M-G-M’s earliest musicals, a box-office hit that ensured that Novarro’s career as a leading man would continue well into the ’30s.
One of the rare American films directed by Danish auteur Benjamin Christensen, Mockery stars Lon Chaney Sr. as a half-witted Russian peasant. On the verge of starvation, Chaney is hired to guide a beautiful countess (Barbara Bedford) through the treacherous Siberian wastes. Once he arrives at the countess’ home territory, Chaney is swept up by the Bolshevik movement. He comes to despise the aristocracy in general and the countess in particular, but the young woman’s kindness towards him weakens his revolutionary resolve. Long thought lost, Mockery was rediscovered and preserved in the mid-1970s; the film was based on a story by Stig Esbern.
Gipsy Anne / Fante-Anne (1920) Rasmus Breistein, Asta Nielsen, Einar Tveito, Johanne Bruhn, Crime, Drama, Romance
The story of an orphaned girl brought up by the Storlein family. Young Anne (Asta Nielsen) is brought as an infant to the Storlein farm by her mother, who has been traveling and is in need of a rest. The two are turned away at the door, and the mother takes her young daughter to the barn to sleep. The farmhand Jon discovers them in the morning but the mother has not made it through the night, so young Anne is taken in and raised by the family. She is a rambunctious little girl, always getting her younger (step) brother into trouble. Finally mother Storlein has had enough, and lets slip that she never should have taken Anne in. Young Anne goes to Jon and learns the truth of her arrival at the farm. Years pass, and she and her younger step-brother are now smitten. But Jon, the farmhand who found her in the barn all those years ago is also in love with Anne. Anne will be betrayed by one and saved from a life in prison by the other, and in the end will find true happiness in a new land.
Nell Gwyn (1926) Herbert Wilcox, Dorothy Gish, Randle Ayrton, Juliette Compton, Biography, Drama, Romance
While Lillian Gish achieved stardom with her dramatic emoting, her sister Dorothy made a name for herself as a saucy comedienne. Nell Gwyn was one of several felicitous collaborations between Dorothy Gish and British producer-director Herbert Wilcox. The star is of course cast as the title character, the infamous 17th-century orange vendor who became a star on the London stage – and the mistress of “merry monarch” King Charles III (Randle Ayrton). Though her fortunes take a downswing towards the end of her life, Nell remains ever faithful to her beloved Charles. Nell Gwyn was based on a novel by Marjorie Bowen, which was also the source for the 1934 remake, which starred Herbert Wilcox’s talented protégé (and later wife) Anna Neagle.
Diana is outwardly the hit of the party but inwardly virtuous and idealistic. Her friend Ann is thoroughly selfish and amoral. Both are attracted to Ben Black, soon-to-be millionaire. He takes Diana’s flirtations with other boys as a sign of disinterest in him and marries Ann. Big mistake.
A con-woman has a nice business going in fleecing gullible tourists who want a genuine ‘underworld’ experience – but the tables are turned when one of her victims turns out to be less innocent than he looks! Dodging the city detective who knows her by sight and wants her to “go straight”, she next sets her sights on a valuable diamond pendant; but when her elegant nemesis turns up at the scene of the would-be crime, it becomes a race to see who can carry out the con first…
Shooting Stars (1928) Anthony Asquith, A.V. Bramble, Annette Benson, Brian Aherne, Donald Calthrop, Drama, Western
The husband and wife acting team of Mae Feather and Julian Gordon is torn apart when he discovers she is having an affair with the screen comedian Andy Wilks. Mae hatches a plot to kill her husband by putting a real bullet in the prop gun which will be fired at him during the making of their new film, ‘Prairie Love’.
Man from the Restaurant / Chelovek iz restorana (1927) Yakov Protazanov, Michael Chekhov, Mikhail Klimov, Mikhail Narokov, Drama
An elderly man works as a waiter at a luxurious restaurant. He’s content and full of hope, and treasures his family more than anything. But it’s time of the First World War and news from the front change his life.