Cinecon 41 Reviewed

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

Films I saw screened at Cinecon 41 including plot summary, film review, rating - all screenings were at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. There may be SPOILERS for some entries.

Cinecon 41 Review - with plot summaries, ratings, opinions:

I had a great time at Cinecon, as usual. I missed three films this year - all the late night ones: The Second Floor Mystery, Subway Express, and Chinatown Nights - so I could get on the subway, get all the way home, and manage to get enough sleep for the next day. Here's my reviews:


SORRELL AND SON (1927) - This film suffered from a very bad, washed-out print and was missing the last reel, but was so very good that I enjoyed it a great deal anyway. About Captain Sorrell (H.B. Warner, in a great performance) who returns from the war to find his two-timing wife packin' up her bags (saying something like "After all, it's been 3 years - you KNOW I've had other men"). Sorrell seems more concerned with his young son Kit (played by Mickey McBan - I was having a hard time at first disassociating this kid from the brat he plays in Harold Lloyd's "Hot Water") - luckily the wife has left the boy with him. Old soldiers find it hard to find work, it seems - Sorrell must take a job as porter at the Anchor Inn, run by a vamp who wants him for carrying luggage, and whatever other "services" she might need. Just trying to support his boy, soon he's onto a different job as 2nd porter under pug-faced Louis Wolheim. Sorrell struggles and sacrifices through the years as the boy grows up into pretty boy Nils Asther. A really excellent and moving film. I loved this. (4 stars)


THE CANADIAN (1926) - The beefcake and the lady home on the range. Prim and proper Nora Marsh (Mona Palma), recently out of funds, moves from London to the Canadian wilderness to live with her brother and his work-worn wife, Gertie, on their wheat farm. There lives a hunky homesteader, Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan, oh my!), who helps work the farm. Nora is completely disgusted by the dirty dishes and bad habits of this clan. When she tries to help cook, she can't even make rice - which disgusts Gertie. Heads clash between Nora and Gertie, and in an effort to get herself out of this household where she feels unwelcome, Nora, overhearing Frank say he might get himself a squaw as a wife "to cook, sew, and clean for him", volunteers to become his wife. She moves into Frank's tiny two room and a kitchen house on his wheat plantation, he sleeps separately from her on a bed he fashions out of a couple of benches - but it seems Frank wanted a bit more from a wife than household chores - as it's not long before he rapes Nora. They winter in silence - the rest is the obvious. This film had a nice-looking print and on-location photography. The story has similarities to "The Wind" - I liked it a lot. (4 stars)


HIGH TREASON (1929) - Sci fi film set in the future where a group of Peace Makers, led by a father and his beautiful daughter, Evelyn (Benita Hume), are trying to prevent a war from starting between the "Atlantic States" and the "Federated States of Europe" (and with a baffling border between the two countries - just where the heck was that supposed to be?!). Evelyn loves a soldier, who papa disapproves of 'cause he's not for peace. A group who wants war to start places a bomb set to explode on the New York to London dining car train travelling through the "Channel Tunnel". When war breaks out - all men under 50 and ALL women must report for duty. The women are shuffled through in line to receive their uniform - white coveralls and white skull caps (but still allowed to wear their little twenties looking heels) - and set to work in the bomb factories. This film is full of futuristic devices that include: picture telephones, automatic doors (like Star Trek), "Television News" broadcasts, one-man orchestra device playing in a club where the dancers are engaged in a weird start and stop dance (the latest dance craze, no doubt), and a car that looks kind of like a white Weinermobile with little windows cut in the sides. In one scene Evelyn takes a shower, then uses a "heat dryer" that looks like a big blow dryer to dry herself (wouldn't it be easier to just use a towel?), out she comes where she slips into a gold dress and skull cap (an outfit that for the future, sure has a distinctive twenties style to it). There is also an interesting scene of future London made out of minatures, with weird slow-moving fake cars moving along, and the sky full of little planes and flying dirigibles. I thought this film was excellent and a lot of fun seeing all the ideas of the future, and it featured a beautiful, clear print. (3.75 to 4 stars)

DOWNHILL (1927) - Ah, Ivor Novello - sigh. Sexy brown eyes - oh, right, I guess I should say something about the film. Alfred Hitchcock directed story about the downhill spiral, from wealth to the gutter, of a handsome young man. Starts with two prep school youths who meet up with a loose waitress/shop girl who runs "Ye Old Bunn Shoppe". They play records, dance, and our handsome hero, Roddy (Novello), gets wrongly accused by the girl of committing a crime and is expelled from school. His dad calls his son a "LIAR" when he tells dad he's innocent, so Roddy leaves his wealthy household to make it on his own. Next thing you know he is playing a waiter in a West End musical and has fallen in love with the leading lady, a famous actress and gold digger. When he inherits 30,000 pounds, he marries her and she quickly runs through his money. Next thing he's in France dancing with old broads for money - one who fancies him actually appears to be an old drag queen (I think - hmm, I wasn't completely sure, pretty masculine looking though). With handsome Novello, a beautiful, clear print, and lots of interesting photography - this was a winner. (3.75 stars)

THE DANGER SIGNAL (1925) - Good son, bad son movie. Even though this was missing a few scenes, including the ending, this was a very enjoyable film, with a mostly nice-looking print. The rich owner of a railroad company, disowned his son for marrying a girl he disapproved of - but the son has died, and grandpa asks the daughter-in-law (Jane Novak), now destitute, to forever give up her baby son to live with him and grow up wealthy. She agrees, but hides the fact that she actually has twin boys - she gives one boy to the grandfather, keeps one boy for herself. Her boy grows up to work on the railroad and has become the good son - while the rich son has been spoiled and gone very wild. A very good film - loved the big train climax. (3.75 stars)

DRESSED TO KILL (1928) - The story of "What one dame can do to the lives of nine men". Jean (Mary Astor), introduced as a "petty larceny jane", joins up with Barry (Edmund Lowe) and his mob, whose headquarters is a speakeasy. Top-hatted Barry is a ladies man who keeps a selection of slinky women's nighties in his dresser drawer. Barry brings Jean into his mob,where she is set into the mix for a big crime job to rob a local fur salon. Stylish, beautifully photographed, and a really great looking print. I love all the tracking shots featuring the close-ups of all the mobsters gruff faces. (3.75 stars)

THE WONDERFUL THING (1921) - This was one of the films I was most looking forward to seeing, as darling Harrison Ford has in recent times, become my newest silent crush. It wasn't as good as I was hoping, but still a cute movie. Pretty Jacqueline (Norma Talmadge) was raised by nuns in France, but is really the daughter of the Iowa Ham King ("Just heat 'em, and eat 'em"). Visiting in England with her friend Dulcie, she decides to stay on at the last minute when she sees Dulcie's brother, the oh so handsome Donald Mannerby (Ford) at the golf range. He happens to be a huge ladies' man, spouting the same lines to one girl after another to get them to kiss him out in the moonlight. He spouts those exact same lines to Jacqueline, but she believes he is serious and falls in love with the louse. Don's high society family have lost all their money and retain their titles only. When Don needs to help his brother, the family boozer, over an incident with a forged check, he marries Jacqueline for her money, the poor thing - actually, not so poor 'cause he is so very adorable, and actually does fall for her too. (3.25 stars)

THE SPOILERS (1914) - All about a girl who meets the very beefy Glennister (William Farnum), while on a ship headed for Nome, Alaska, where she is to deliver some secret documents on behalf of her uncle. She arrives in the muddiest gold mining town on earth. Soon, of course, (though there are a surprisingly large amount of women at this camp, judging by the number of couples on the saloon dance floor) most of the male characters are after her. A bad politician arrives with the mission to take over the mines. Heads clash, but Glennister doesn't want to fight 'cause the girl doesn't like it. At least that's what I am remembering - I believe I drowsed a bit in this one. This had really nice-looking outdoor location shots, but I was having a little trouble following it (so sleepy!). Not too bad. (3 stars)

PEGGY LEADS THE WAY (1917) - I was sleepy! Looking forward to this one too - unfortunately I dozed through half of this, so the plot is pretty vague. Seems something like this: Peggy (Mary Miles Minter, very pretty), arrives home from girl's boarding school to a small town where her daddy is the town grocer. She meets up with locals and takes charge in making papa more profits. That's about it. This film is nicely photographed and looked quite pretty. (2.75 stars)


THE ROARING ROAD (1919) - For being my last place silent of the weekend, this was still fairly decent - really a good selection of silent films this year. "The Bear", head of a car company, wants to be the first to win the Grand Prize (Santa Monica Road Race) 3 times for the same car. Salesman, "Toodles" Walden (Wallace Reid), is in love with the Bear's "cub", his plain jane daughter Dorothy - no thing of beauty. Toodles wants to race - but they won't let him. But when it looks like they won't have an entry this year as three cars all get smashed before the race - Toodles takes it upon himself to reconstruct a new roadster made up of pieces of the smashed cars. He races, wins, gets himself promoted to manager, then goes on a road race from L.A. to San Francisco to try and beat the 14 hour time record and get his girl. This film had a beautiful tinted print but the story was just so-so. A bit boring, and Wallace Reid does nothing for me. (2.75 stars)


MARTY (1955) - One of my favorites, I have seen this maybe ten times before, but never on the big screen - plus director Delbert Mann was there in person for this. About butcher Marty (Ernest Borgnine), a really nice guy, but homely, 34 years old and unmarried, much to the chagrin of his domineering Italian mama. Encouraged by mama to find himself a girl, he goes out one evening to the Starlight Ballroom, where a jerk tries to pawn off his date "a dog", as he calls her, on Marty by offering Marty 5 bucks to take the girl home for him. Marty turns down the deal, but feeling sorry for the girl, he asks her to dance. The girl, Clara (Betsy Blair, who I always thought doesn't seem unattractive enough for the part, I just kind of accept the fact that she's meant to be plain when watching this), and Marty hit it off as they spend the evening together laughing and talking and talking and talking. Marty and Clara are both excited 'cause they both know they have finally met someone that it could work out with. Marty promises to call her, but the next day is discouraged from seeing Clara again by his so-called "pals" and his pushy mama ("She don't look like Italian girl to me", says mama). This film looked really good on the big screen, the scenes in the Starlight Ballroom made me feel like I was right there in the dance hall with them. A terrific film. (4 stars)


BABY FACE (1933) - Bad girl meets "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". "Use Men" is the motto of Lily (Barbara Stanwyck), as coached by her friend, the old cobbler, who quotes Nietzsche. After the death of her creepy father, she hits the big city with her maid Chico, finds a big office building where she wants to work, then moves her way up the ladder from floor to floor by seducing man after man after man - usually pretending she's an innocent young lady, who doesn't drink, and is very "inexperienced" with men. Yeah - right! This was really good, and Barbara Stanwyck is one of my favorites - she looked great. Loved this one. This wouldn't be nearly as good with the altered scenes the censors put in. (4 stars)


MIRAGE (1965) - Stylish mystery that starts out with Gregory Peck in a darkened stairwell where he meets a woman (Diane Baker, there in person for this screening) who knows him - but he has no memory of. A man he knows mysteriously falls out the window from the 27th floor of the building and dies. Everywhere he goes now, things are weird. The bartender doesn't remember his "usual" drink, his apartment refrigerator is completely empty, then a few days later it's full, the stairwell he was in has disappeared, his office has disappeared. Now he's got to try and figure out why he can't remember what he's been doing the last two years. I have seen this once or twice before, but it's been a number of years since I last saw it, so it was pretty fresh for me. This had a nice print that looked really good on the big screen - the NYC street scenes looked great. And - hmm - when one man in the audience stood up and revealed he went to high school with Diane Baker in the fifties - I realized that my dad must have gone to school with her too, as he also went to Van Nuys High at that same time, with Robert Redford. (3.75 stars)

THE BAND WAGON (1953) - I have seen this about 5 times before but never on the big screen - I like this film mostly for all the loads of great musical numbers in it - especially love the Triplets and the Shine On Your Shoes numbers. Like the dresses in this film - there's a really pretty bright yellow dress with a sun on it. Aging actor/dancer Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) gets together with two friends, a couple who are writers and have just come up with a new script for a show they want to put on. They get a famous ballet dancer (Cyd Charisse) to take the female lead, but they also get this weirdo director who changes the story around into an over-the-top musical version of Faust. Fun. Nanette Fabray was there in person. (3.5 stars)

UNKNOWN VALLEY (1933) - Well, I wasn't really expecting too much from this, but it ended up being surprisingly good. Buck Jones as a man who goes into the stark "Dead Man's Valley" in search for his father who has disappeared. Travelling across the hot, dry desert with only his trusted pretty horse Silver, he arrives to find this weird religious cult, a sort of Amish/Puritan clan dressed in old-fashioned outfits and long beards (well, just the men), where the "Word" of the Elders is law, girls of marriageable age are handed over with no say to one of the men, disrespect towards the Elders is grounds for ten lashes, and no one can ever leave. Isolated from the rest of the world, with their own weird set of laws - yeah, some strange stuff going on here. I love the quiet scenes in this - like when he crosses the desert you could really feel the aloneness. Nice print and quite enjoyable film. (3.25 stars)

IT CAN'T LAST FOREVER (1937) - Theatrical agent (Ralph Bellamy) gets the idea, when he sees the hammy, drunkard "Master Mind" perform, to pull this scheme of pretending the famous "Sultana Pearl" has been stolen, then have The Master Mind fake it to the cops to reveal it's locale. Bellamy has to take over when Master Mind is too drunk to do it. He soon gains fame predicting future events, such as horse race winners, and meanwhile, a snoopy lady reporter suspects him and tries to write an article exposing him as a fake. She obviously secretly likes him - what else. Enjoyable, with lots of good song and tap dance numbers interspersed. (3 stars)

HIDEAWAY (1937) - Country bumpkin family of father, mother (both looking more like the grandparents than the parents), twentyish daughter(Marjorie Lord, there in person for Q&A), and a boy and his frog (Our Gang's Tommy Bond, the boy not the frog) have been squatters for 8 years in a house that belongs to a mobster. The mobster and two of his gang arrive to hideout from the cops after pulling a racket that landed them $100,000. When they find the hick family living there they, for some reason, decide to pretend they a hunters who pay 2 bucks to board at the house. Comedy ensues. One gangster keeps getting mixed up with the family brat, one fancies the daughter (who doesn't much mind as she's so very bored with her handsome hometown forest ranger boyfriend). Mix-ups come quickly as the men think a posse is on the way to get them and blockade the door - but it's really the town neighbors arriving for a big shivaree/social. Kind of amusing film - not too bad. (3 stars)

I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE (1951) - Dress model in the NYC garment district and a conniving schemer trying to claw her way to the top, Harriet Boyd (Susan Hayward) starts her own design company - Sherboyco Dresses - along with an older, kind man and a younger man (Dan Dailey) who she constantly fights with, but, oddly, they are in love. Designing $10.95 dresses, she really would like to design gowns - so hooks up with J.F. Noble (George Sanders), of Noble's Gowns, who is the kind of a man that George Sanders always plays. I liked the dresses in this, I find Dan Dailey to have about as much appeal as a tree stump. Okay film. (3 stars)

LADIES SHOULD LISTEN (1934) - Ladies' man, Cary Grant, seduces women in his apartment via a couch-side sound effects device that, at the push of a button, creates the illusion of a huge thunderstorm outside, plus a button operated perfume sprayer (hmm - why do men like this in movies always have to have these kind of devices set up to trick women into staying - since this man has such a huge appeal to the women, wouldn't they just stay on anyway?) After eavesdropping on his telephone conversations, the switchboard operater (Frances Drake) at his apartment building has fallen in love with him. But he ends up engaged to be married (for reasons that I missed as I dozed off for a few minutes right at that scene) to the blonde, dizzy, bespectacled girlfriend of Edward Everett Horton, who seems way too old for Cary (I think, looking much older than her years). So so film, amusing in spots. I liked seeing Charles Ray in this. (2.75 stars)

WASHINGTON STORY (1952) - Patricia Neal (there in person for Q&A) as a reporter set to do a news article about the week in the life of a congressman, but really she's trying to dig up the dirt on the "No Comment" Honest Abe congressman played by Van Johnson. Of course, they go for dancing and romancing as she follows his every move to try and get some dirt, and we get an inside look at congress including underground subway tunnels between buildings, etc. Nice looking print for this - so-so story. (2.5 stars)

MOONLIGHT AND CACTUS (1944) - In which three sailors on leave, out of funds, spend their leave at the "Happy Valley Ranch", cattle ranch which ends up being full of female agriculture students, now runnin' the ranch while the men are off at war - and doing a terrific job at it. Except for one thing - a cattle rustler has been stealing the herd - 700 of their cattle gone missing. This film is full of good musical numbers, with songs sung by the Andrews Sisters, who play three girls on the ranch. I was very amused by a scene with Shemp Howard (who plays one of the sailors) dressed in drag, as he tries to seduce a man to get at his moneybelt. Not that great a film - but has moments. (2.5 stars)

GIFT OF GAB (1934) - Obnoxious Gabney (Edmund Lowe) currently selling fake spot remover 'cause he's got the gift of gab, hires on as the new radio announcer at WGAB. Soon he is a roving radio reporter doing on the scene reports including broadcasting a football game from the bleachers via hidden microphone and the first "live radio broadcast via parachute". There were lots of good musical numbers in this film, other than that very mediocre. (2.25 stars)


IT HAPPENED IN FLATBUSH (1942) - Baseball movie (blah). Lloyd Nolan as a guy who gets hired as the new manager for the Brooklyn baseball team. The woman who hires him dies and now he must deal with the family who inherited the team - mainly a pretty gal played by Carole Landis who, of course, he soon hooks up with and convinces to invest tons of money to improve the team. Terrible - boring (well, I admit I don't normally care for a baseball movie), but with lots of favorite character actors in bit parts like William Frawley, Jane Darwell, Sara Allgood, and Scotty Beckett as the bat boy and Nolan's son?, little brother?, neighbor's boy? (and hey, I thought I spotted another Our Gang actor, Sidney Kibrick, briefly in this - who also has a bit part in "Gift of Gab" actually). (1.5 stars)


HARLEM BOUND (1935) - In which the well-to-do white folk go to Harlem to see a show. Loved the musical numbers in this! But what was with the club where they perform? Well-coifed, gowned, and tuxed stuffed shirts sitting around watching these great acts like bumps on logs. They didn't look like they were having much fun.


BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY (1934) - With incredibly poor special effects like slow-moving fake rockets on strings, etc. - and incredibly poor acting - um, like "Plan 9 from Outer Space", this was actually so unbelievably bad, it was funny.

THE IRON CLAW, ch. 4 and ch. 5 - I just can't get interested in this thing - year after year and I can't remember one thing about this as I normally doze off the minute this starts.

SUSIE'S AFFAIRS - With rhyming dialogue and really cute looking young Betty Grable, this was a cute short - shown after the business meeting ran short.

THE BEER PARADE (1933) - Scrappy cartoon with a lot of beer drinking elves. Okay, but I'm not that big on cartoons. My hubby - who just will NOT attend Cinecon even for a day - was actually kind of interested in hearing about this, as he loves animation and by coincidence had recently been talking about the real Beer Parade that occurred at the time.

THE TABASCO KID (1932) - I love Charley Chase, here in a duel role, and this film was pretty good.

ASK FATHER (1919) - Harold Lloyd is one of my favorites, but this short didn't really catch me. I'm afraid I found the music, which didn't quite match the film, a bit distracting.

ADVANCE BASE (1945) - WW2 documentary in color - I was sleepy during this, so didn't get much out of it. Sort of felt like I was back in the school room watching one of those films and trying not to fall asleep on my desk.

NEWS OF THE DAY: 11/11/40 - Had amazing footage of a bridge collapsing. Pretty interesting.


ONE ON THE HOUSE - I love the Merry Macs, but all that stuff with the bumbling workmen was really dumb. Yuck.


Only about 5 minutes long this year - the record is still held by a man sitting near me who had a minimum of 10 and possibly was as long as 15 minute conversation during one of the silent screenings at Cinecon 40. Oh brother!

Two - - one involving several men being cuffed by the cops in front of a shop down the street from the Egyptian, the other incident was a man being frisked by the cops against the side of a taxicab.

Zero - - hurrah for that! While I walked right in every time - the men's room normally had a long queue.


All in all it was a great weekend, with loads of enjoyable films. Looking forward to next year.

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