Showing posts with label Period Films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Period Films. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Undercrank Productions: Little Old New York (1923)

What would you do for a million dollars? For Patricia O'Day (Marion Davies), she would go as far as live her life as a boy so that her family could inherit what was rightfully theirs. When Patricia's rich American uncle passes away, she and her father John (J.M. Kerrigan) are visited in Ireland by the uncle's proprietor. The uncle's will stipulates that the sole heir of the $1 million fortune is Patrick O'Day (Stephen Carr), Patricia's brother. Patrick has two months to travel to New York to claim the inheritance or lose it forever. However, Patrick is gravely ill and won't survive the treacherous journey over the Atlantic. 

Upon arrival, Patricia plays the part of her brother by donning a page boy haircut and boys clothes. She meets Larry Delavan (Harrison Ford, the other one!) whom everyone, including Larry himself, thought would inherit his step-father's fortune. The story follows Patricia as she plays the part of Patrick, enters high society, invests in steamboat technology, gets caught up in the world of sports gambling, faces an identity crisis and falls in love.

Little Old New York (1923) was a box office hit for star Marion Davies. The film was so popular that it beat box office sales for the previous record holder Robin Hood (1922). Based on the play by Rida Johnson Young, the film adaptation was produced by William Randolph Hearst's company Cosmopolitan Corporation and filmed at his studio on 127th Street and 2nd Avenue in New York City. A fire broke out at the studio while filming was still underway. The negatives for the film, which at that point was two-thirds complete, were miraculously salvaged. However, costumes and sets had to be recreated. 

A big marketing push for the film included a press conference with Davies, an invitation for the public to be extras in one of the scenes and having theater usherettes dress like characters in the movie (not sure if they were made to mimic Marion Davies' boy look or the other female characters wearing 19th century garb). The film premiered at Hearst's Majestic theatre in Columbus Circle and a couple months later premiered in London. Little Old New York was remade in 1940 with Alice Faye in the lead role.

Marion Davies is absolutely charming as the lead character. She uses her feminine wiles and masculine energy to adeptly play this binary role. I'm really drawn to stories about gender representation especially when they spotlight stereotypes in a way that criticizes them (whether intentional or not). I would recommend this film to fans of silents, Marion Davies and period pieces.

At 1 hour and 47 minutes, Little Old New York feels a bit too long. A natural resolution to the story could have happened much earlier in the film. Overall, the movie watched more like chapters in story of Patricia/Patrick O'Day's adventures rather than one cohesive feature film. 

Little Old New York (1923) is available on DVD from Undercrank Productions, in association with Edward Lorusso, and features a lively original score by accompanist Ben Model. According to Undercrank's website, the film is presented from a 2k digital scan made from the Library of Congress's 35mm nitrate print. The DVD is a result of a Kickstarter campaign and also includes an excerpt from Hold Fast (1916).

Shop Little Old New York (1923) DVD at the following retailers.

AmazonBarnes and Noble — Deep DiscountMovies Unlimited

Thank you to Undercrank Productions for sending me a copy for review!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Under Capricorn (1949)

When everyone is a convict, who can you trust?

The year is 1831. Convict ships transport prisoners from the British Empire to the penal colony of Australia. They also bring with them gentleman looking to make their fortune in a new land. When Charles Adare (Michael Wilding) arrives in Sydney seeking a business opportunity to make him rich, he meets wealthy landowner and ex-convict Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten). As the to partner on a business deal, Adare discovers that Flusky's wife, Lady Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman), is his old schoolmate from Ireland. She's in a terrible state and he takes pity on her. The Flusky household is run completely by ex-convicts and the overbearing housekeeper Milly (Margaret Leighton), who has designs on replacing the lady of the house, is slipping alcohol into Henrietta making her dependent on alcohol. When Adare discovers this he tries to save Henrietta and Sam from their sad state of affairs, he gets more than he bargained for. Will the Flusky's dark secret destroy them or will Adare be able to save the day?

"Tomorrow will look after itself."

Under Capricorn (1949) is an unusual entry into Alfred Hitchcock's filmography. The master of suspense opted to work on a costume drama instead of the thrillers he was known for. The story was based on a novel by Helen Simpson which was also a play by John Colton and Margaret Linden. It was adapted for the screen by actor Hume Cronyn (who also adapted Rope) and screenwriter James Bridie. Why did Hitchcock pick this work to direct?  When asked about this in his conversation with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock replied,

 "I had no special admiration for the novel, and I don't think I would have made the picture if it hadn't been for Ingrid Bergman. At the time she was the biggest star in America."

In 1947, Hitchcock and his business partner Sidney Bernstein started Transatlantic Pictures. Their first film Rope (1948) was an experiment in filmmaking. It was Hitchcock's first shot in color and it has become legendary for its long ten minute takes and very little editing. With Under Capricorn, Hitchcock continued the experiment with color and more long shots but it didn't work out as well in this second venture. In conversation with Truffaut about the film, Hitchcock said,

"No doubt about it; films must be cut. As an experiment, Rope may be forgiven, but it was definitely a mistake when I insisted on applying the same techniques to Under Capricorn."

Because of the caliber Bergman brought to the production, Hitchcock felt the need to make Under Capricorn a big production and spent roughly $2.5 million, a lot for the late 1940s, on the movie. Unfortunately, like Rope, Under Capricorn was a box office failure. Both films suffered from scandal. Rope was banned in several markets because of the implied homosexuality and Under Capricorn's star Bergman had an extramarital affair with director Robert Rossellini that effectively put her Hollywood career on hold. After the release of Under Capricorn, the Bankers Trust Company, which had financed the film, repossessed it. The film was not shown again to the public until CBS acquired the rights in 1967. They've owned it ever since.

Under Capricorn is a lesser known Hitchcock film and there is a good reason why. There is no suspense, no thrill, just a lot of melodrama and dialogue. It's easy to make connections to previous Hitchcock films like Rebecca (housekeeper vs. wife), Notorious (poisoning) and Rope (dark secret, experimental filmmaking). But this is not as good as those films. It is worth watching to see how this fits in Hitchcock's filmography and for Bergman's performance. She has a long dramatic retelling of a murder which could have been shown as a flashback but Hitchcock opted instead to give Bergman a monologue so she could shine. After Under Capricorn, Hitchcock realized costume dramas were not for him and he never revisited this genre.

Under Capricorn (1949) is available on Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The BFI and Kino did a 4k restoration and color correction of the movie. This special edition includes the following extras: a commentary track by film historian Kat Ellinger, 12 minute audio clip of Francois Truffaut's interview with Alfred Hitchcock, a 26 minute doc called A Cinema of Signs: Claude Chabrol on Alfred Hitchcock and various trailers. In one part of the Chabrol doc he highlights several scenes in Under Capricorn analyzing composition and symbolism. The Blu-Ray disc also comes with an interchangeable jacket as seen above.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of the Blu-Ray to review.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catching Up with Quelle (8)

Anna Karenina (2012) -  While I love classic movies, what you may not know about me is that I also have a deep love for period films, especially adaptations of classic novels. Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books and I was excited to see that a new adaptation was being released into theaters. For some reason I became absolutely determined to win advance screening tickets to this film and I entered every online contest I could. I ended up winning a couple tickets from a local Whole Foods for an advance screening last Wednesday.  (They ended up being two tickets for four instead of two tickets for two, oops!). I got a gorgeous pass and when we left the movie they handed out these great tri-fold double-sided posters (see above).

It was a really good film despite Keira Knightley being in it. One of the reasons I don't watch as many period films as I used to is that she seems to be in a lot of them. If Zooey Deschanel ever decides to do Period Films I will have to give up the genre entirely.

It's good to note that Anna Karenina (2012) is partly choreographed and a lot of the sets are on stages that change and open up into other sets. If you don't know this up front or if you are not okay with this, the movie might not be as enjoyable. This reminded me of an adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like it from 2006 in which you got glimpses of a real contemporary audience which reminded you that this is a performance. I loved the blending of reality with fantasy. With Anna Karenina, the stages remind you that this is a production and it also gave the filmmakers more liberty to be visually expressive with history and fantasy.

It's a beautiful film and I thought it was well-executed. I don't understand why they didn't just put Jude Law in the role of Vronsky instead of an unknown. Besides Keira Knightley, Jude Law and I'll make the case also for Emma Watson because I love her, everyone else in the film are minor actors or up-and-coming ones. I think the two major roles should have gone to the two major actors. Downton Abbey fans will recognize the familiar faces of Michelle Dockery (who looks just like my friend Haze who went to the movie with me!) and Thomas Howes who have minor roles in the movie.

One thing I have to say is that there is a gory scene in the beginning of the film which I thought they could have done away with. When I left the film, it's the one scene that stuck in my head. And that should not have been the case.

Will you see Anna Karenina (2012)?

Period Films - Do you like period films? If so, which ones? I have to say that I do not enjoy historical classic films as I do contemporary ones. I feel like todays film makers have a lot more pressure on them to be historically accurate whereas using Victorian style clothing in Pride & Prejudice (1940) (it's Regency not Victorian!). Also because of Hays Code and heavy-handed movie studios, film makers often had to change major plot points or characters in order to please the big bosses. Personally, I would like to know more about the decision behind making Lady Catherine de Bourgh a nice character at the end of the P&P 1940 adaptation (sorry for the spoiler!).

Advance Screenings - I have only been to one other advance screening and that was in 2004. A lot has changed since that time and I noticed while watching Anna Karenina that there were several guards at the theater waving some sort of laser thing over the audience. Also, they checked our bags for recording devices. Someone told me that at some advance screenings they'll take your cell phone and only give it back when the movie is over!

2013 Turner Classic Movies Festival - For those of you who have gone to this festival in the past, what advice do you have for those of us who are going or who are contemplating going in 2013? Cinematically Insane has a nice post detailing the differences between passes from 2012 and 2013 and offers some advice on what to invest your money in and Laura from Laura's Miscellaneous Musings gave me a good tip about standby lines for evening shows ($20 to get in if there are open spots). Any other advice?

Have a good week!

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook