Greta Garbo and Victor Sjostrom

Friday, December 30, 2022

Swedish Silent Film, director George af Klercker

Anne-Kristin Wallengren, for Nordic Academic Press, only indirectly refers to the work of Gosta Werner and the restoration of lost silent film in the article, Welecome Home Mr. Swanson-Swedish Emigrants and Swedishness on Film. "There is the still extant film Storstadfaror (Perils of the Big City, Manne Gothson, 1918), in which a young man goes to America and at the end of the film, returns to Sweden, rich; however, while this was one of the very few films made in the 1910's to show America in a positive light, it is also significant that his was only a supporting role." The film Perils of the Big City was written by Gabrielle Ringertz and photographed by Gustav A. Gustavson. Appearing in the film were Mary Johnson, who, having made several films with George af Klerker, would later film under the direction of Mauritz Stiller. Appearing in the film with Johnson were actresses Agda Helin, Tekl Sjoblom and Lilly Cronin.
The film apparently was the only film produced at Hasselblad Fotografiska, from its first film in 1915, untill it merged early in 1918 to become Filmindustri Skandia, not to have been directed by George af Klercker, Manne Gothson had previously been Klercker's assistant director. This having been said, scholar Astrid Soderberg Widding points out that Gosta Werner neglects or omits the films made by Af Klercker before he began with Hasselblad, almost to confer with other authors that place Sjostrom and Stiller at the forefront of Swedish Silent Film's Golden Age; Leif Furhammer has advanced that Af Klercker had been an Auteur  only to heighten the comparison that can be made between George Af Klercker and Carl Th. Dreyer, despite Dreyer's having entered directing later and his only having scripted melodramas while searching for adaptations.
     The fourty one minute film 'Mysteriet natter till den 25ie' proves to be more enigmatic than its director. it stars Swedish actress Mary Johnson with Carl Barklind and was photographed by Sven PeUtersson- one of the first films to demonstrate the need for silent film preservation, it was not shown to audiences until, 1975. Recently a genealogical study on the af Klercker family, which not only includes George af Klercker, but also Birgitta af Klercker and Fredrick af Klercker mentioned the film, but not as a film that had been lost, as many silent films have, or lost and then later found, but as a film that was originally banned by Swedish film censorship. The Swedish Film Institute confirms the film having been originally banned as a "Nick Carter" detective film, but that when the film became no longer lost, in 1975, the elements in the film that were objectionable were no longer able to be censored and the restored version was given a "for all" rating after having been missing for nearly sixty years. Describing the film as a "three act sensational drama", Peter Cowie writes, "Klercker's ingenuity yeilds constant suprises."
Clearly George af Klercker was eclipsed by Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjostrom in that af Klercker left had Svenska Bio before  Stiller and Sjostrom had gained renown internationally for films of longer running length. The director Geroge af Klerker is portrayed by actor Bjorn Granath in the film "The Last Scream" ("The Last Gasp", Stig Bjornman, 1995), a two character play in one act lasting almost an hour which depicts a fictional, ie. Imaginary, meeting between the director Klercker and Charles Magnussion, founder of Svensk Filmindustri and which was written by Ingmar Bergman. Actress Anna Von Rossen stars as Miss Holm. The play was published by New Press in the volume, The Fifth Act, in which also appeared Monologue, After the Rehearsal and Presence of a Clown. Stig Bjorkman, noted for his interviews of Ingmar Bergman is also the director of I Am Curious Film, and But Film is My Mistress. It should be noted that Bjorn Granath portrays George af Klercker in the film "Jag ar nyfiken, film" (1999) in which he appears with, of course, Lena Nyman, who interviews Sven Nykvist, Eva Isaksen, Stefan Jarl and Liv Ullman, but it should also be noted that Victor Sjostrom and Ingmar Bergman are listed in the cast of players in the film "Images from the Playground" (Bilder fran Lekstugan,2009), written and directed by Stig Bjorkman, which appeared in the 2022 Cannes film festival- while many noted scholars have chosen to appraise Swedish film through the form of the essay, Stig Bjorkman has brought the interview into the onscreen literature of the documentary.

It is clear that Astrid Soderberg Widding outlines the ostensible difference between the director George af Klercker and his contemporaries Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller by accurately placing him as a director of "melodrama and sensational adventures" made in Denmark, those which had established the director Viggo Larsen ; he is also apart from the type of film made in Kristianstad before he had began with Svenska Bio at Lindingo. As academic writing among film historians can be cumulative, each seminal text nodding to what is salient in each of its predecessors, it is certain that Soderberg Widding will not only contribute to film history research, but will springboard later film theory. She describes the directing of Af Klercker with, "A purely film-theoretical aspect that becomes evident when looking at Af Klercker's production deserves to be highlighted. it has to do with the relationship between the visual and narrative elements: phenomena which in film-theoretical historiography are not infrequently regarded as counterpoints......Af Klercker's films are in their narratives quite conventional and typical of their time. They provide thrilling stories while expressing a supreme control over film as a medium." In describing this, Astrid Soderberg Widding articulates the interrelationship between content and form while praising the films of Af Klercker for their "stylistic stability and visual extravagance, if only to reiterate that characters are developed within the miss en scene context of their created environment in the narrative plots of both Danish and Swedish silent film "Here one encounters a driven visual narrator   who demands a high degree of focus. many of the different narrative devices and stylistic features are noteworthy: his utilization of a qualified depth-of-focus cinematography aw well as the effect of advanced lighting." The author notes that one instance of this was Klerker's use of door frames within the image. In no academic papers already copyrighted, Soderberg Widding looks intricately at technique including the element of editing, so as not to neglect shot structure being in tandem with composition, by distinguishing a signature of Af Klercker's composition, "to use an undivided screen space where dissectons and doubling so takes place within a general frame rather than the introduction of several frames."
Dodsritten under cirkuskupolen (1912) had been written by Charles Magnusson and photographed by Henrik Jaenzon. George Af Klercker had written his own screenplay to the 1912 film Jupiter pa Jorden, also filmed by Henrik Jaenzon. Although Af Klerker directed a short film photographed by Sven Petterson and starring actress Tyra Leijman Uppstrom during 1913, he that year also directed The Scandal (Skandalen) for Svenska Biographteatern, his photographer again Henrik Jaenzon, as was the case with the film Med Vapen I Hand that year,actress Selma Wiklund Af Klerker also returning for both films. As director, Klercker appeared on screen on camera in front of the lens of cameraman Henrik Jaenzon during "Med Vapen hand", which he did again while directing "For faderneslandent" with Jaenzon as camera man. Ragnar Ring codirected the film and wrote it's screenplay and actress Lilly Jacobsen starred in the film.

In Goteborg, Sweden, the two films produced by Hasselblads Fotofraphiska during 1915 were both filmed by George af Klerker and Sve Petterson. That year George af Klercker contributed the film "The Rose of Thistle Island" ("Rosen pa Tistelon), the first film in which actress Elsa Carlsson and Anna Lofstrom were to appear. The novel had been filmed previously by director Mauritz Stiller as "Pa livets Odesvager".

Among the films directed by George Af Klercker during 1916 was The Gift of Health (Aktie bolaget Halsams gave), the first film photographed by cinematographer Gustav Gustafson and the first film in which actress Tekla Sjoblom was to appear. Carl Gustaf Florin also is credited as having photographed with Gustafson. One of only two photoplays to be scripted by Gustaf Berg, the film is presumed to be lost with no suviving copies. Also starring in the film were Mary Johnson and Anna Lofstrom.

That year Swedish film director Af Klercker also appeared on screen in the film Under the Spell of Memories (I minnenasband), in which he directed Elsa Carlsson, Tora Carlsson and Elsa Berglund. The film was written and photographed by Sven Pettersson. The 1916 film Hogsta Vinsten, in which director George Af Klercker appeared on screen with actress Gerda Thome Mattsson lasted a brief running time of only sixteen minutes at a time when the average running time had been increased from four reels to six. The film was photographed by Sven Pettersson. Also among the film's directed by George af Klercker in 1916 were "Triumph of Love" ("Karleken segrar") photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin and starring Mary Johnson, Teklas Sjoblom, Selma Wikland Klercker and Lily Cronwin in the first film in which she was to appear and the film "Mother in Law Goes for a Stroll" ("Svar pa rift") photographed by Gustav A. Gustafson and starring Greta Johansson, Maja Cassell and Zara Backman. Peter Cowie contrasts the directing of George af Klercker with that of Mauritz Stiller, "Mood and composition, however, distinguish Klercker's work more than performances."
Af Klercker had gained renown not only for his blending artificial and natural light, but while at Hasselblad he innovated the techniques involved with a lens system that was suited for filming objects at a distance, ranging from a focal length of a few feet to that of a mile.
The Swedish Film Institute credits George af Klercker for having made two films in which actress Olga Hallgren starred whereas databases in the United States credit her with three films, all produced in Sweden during 1917 by Hasselblad studios. Klercker directed the 1917 "Ett Konstnarsode" photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin, in which Hallgren starred with actress Greta Pfeil and Klercker directed the 1917 film "Brottmalsdomanen" ("The Judge"), photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin, also starring Olga Hallgren. Sources from the United States credit Klercker with the film "Det Finns Inga Gudar pa Jordan" ("There are no Gods on Earth") from 1917 in which Olga Hallgren again starred with Greta Pfeil.

It wasn't untill 2017 that there was an unearthed copy of the 1926 film "Flickorna pa Solvik", the last film to be directed by George af Klercker, when it was rediscovered in a private collection. One of only two photoplays scripted by John Larson, the film starred actress Wanda Rothgardt.

Danish Silent Film

Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller

Swedish Silent Film

Swedish Sound Film

Greta Garbo Silent Film

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Silent Film of Alfred Hitchcock

"I first started in 1920...There was a scenario department so you had a scenario editor and his assistant. My job at the time was designing the titles, because titles because titles were very important since whole stories could be changed, characters could be changed merely by the wording inthe title. I was then given odd jobs of going out to shoot odd litlle entrances and exits on exteriors. So gradually I practiced my hand at scriptwriting myself. I took any story and after the script was written it was handed to the director."

Alfred Hitchcock (quoted by Eric Sherman)

The Kinematograph Yearbook of 1928 include with the screen credits then acquired by Alfred Hitchcock those of his having been assistant and scenarist to director Graham Cutts on the films "Woman to Woman", "Blackguard" and "Passionate Adventure". The periodical credits Hitchcock as the director of "Pleasure Garden" (1926) after his joining Gainsborough Pictures in 1925. During filmed interviews late in his career, Hitchcock reflects that he had been trained in American silent film, despite the studios having been located in England- that the influence of Murnau and Eisenstien had only been subsequent.

Interestingly, in his recent academic paper Silent Hitchcock, author Robert Murphy, instructor at De Montfort University, Leicester, asks how important a silent film director Alfred Hitchcock was by wondering if Hitchcock had been killed with F.W. Murnau, that is if he had only made silent film and ended with Blackmail, which would have been his tenth silent, would his films still be studied or overlooked. Oddly, the author has chosen Hitchcock, who in fact often repeated camera set ups in his American sound films that he had previously used in lower budget British silent films, returning to redo elements of scenes and motifs he had used earlier- an ostensible reason for this being that he collaborated as a director on scripts with his wife both in England and in the United States which may have brought a sentimentality when the production costs of his films were much larger.
Murphy, in Silent Hitchcock, surveys Hitchcock's silent career, beginning by noting that "The Mountain Eagle" (1926) is a lost film. "All that survives of 'The Mountain Eagle' are the six stills reproduced in Truffaut's book of interviews with Hitchcock and we have no way of knowing if the film was as terrible as Hitchcock thought it was." It was in fact based on an original script rather than a popular novel or stage vehicle. The film stars actress Nita Naldi.
     What miraculously does survive is one of the silent films to which Alfred Hitchock wrote the Photoplay, "White Shadow", directed in 1924 by Graham Cutts. Once thought to have been lost, the film is now restored and considered incomplete, the first three reels having been discovered in New Zealand during 2010, The film, adapted by Hitchcock from a novel by Michael Morton, stars actress Betty Compson in a dual role of good and bad twin sisters. The film was originall released with a length of six reels and was co-scripted and edited by Alma Reville. As a director, Cutts has been noted by critics for his compositions in the film, particularly for the use of backlighting during night interiors.
     The British Film Institute presently lists "Woman to Woman" directed by Graham Cutts a year earlier in 1923 as being "lost", there being no known surviving copies held in archives around the world and no ongoing prints that are currently being restored. Eight reels in length, it was written by Alfred Hitchock, the assistant director to the film, and edited by Alma Reville, the two apparently having first met during its filming in some accounts. Betty Compson stars in the film.
     More likely Hitchcock had known Alma Reville, if only slightly, during 1922 while an intertitle writer for the film "The Man From Home" directed by George Fitzmaurice and written by Ouida Bergee, who later married the actor Basil Rathbone. Alma Reville edited the film which had not been seen untill only recently when a copy was found in The Netherlands and untill then having had been presumed lost. George Fitzmaurice also that year directed the film "Three Live Ghosts", written by Ouida Bergere.
     The existing print, and untranslated copy of the film "The Man from Home" was discovered by authors Alain Kerzoncof and Charles Barr, who in their book Hitchcock Lost and Found note that Hitchcok telephoned Alma Reville later when an assistant director.
     Alfred Hitchcock also scripted the film "Dangerous Virtue", directed by Graham Cutts during 1925 in Islington, London. The film stars actresses Jane Novak and Julliane Johnstone. Hitchcock is credited as assistant director and Betty Compson appears in the film in a smaller than before role and Miles Mander appears in the film. Motion Picture News Booking Guide of 1926 provided a brief synopsis, "Society melodrama based on eternal triangle. Philandering Frenchman captures American girl's heart. She is too much of a prude for him, however, and he becomes infatuated with Russian, who dies. Spirit of vengeance in Frenchman's heart towards American girl is eventually supplanted by love." The film is more commonly known by the title "The Prude's Fall" and exists in the form of an incomplete print- although three reels survive, the beginning of the film is missing.
       Director Graham Cutts was followed by the press in more than two sundry accounts; Kinematograph Yearbook of 1928 reported that to end 1926, " Graham Cutts turned down an invitation to name his own price to direct a picture for an American firm." It added that during the following month he had severed his affiliation with Piccadilly Pictures.
 Film restoration attempts noticed the stylistic difference between the intertiles used during the films of Alfred Hitchcock by the two companies Gainsborough and British International, Gainsborough aiming at a more literary, artistic, perhaps old-fashioned feel of exposition, with British International veering more towards the reportage of dialogue within the narrative. Scholar Robert Murphy sees a more extensive use of location shooting when Hitchcock left Gainsborough studios for British international Pictures, and indeed, Hitchcock would continue to incorporate famous outdoor settings during climatic scenes, frequently as a backdrop for the McGuffin throughout his entire career, but while assessing Hitchcock s a silent director,he adds, "If Hitchcock makes use of outdoor realism, he by no means abandons Expressionism, though there's a refining down into something more akin to subjective Impressionism." Robert Murphy concludes with an anti-climatic tone, not realizing that it is the auteur of Hitchcock's technique that compels the audience to find the Hitchcockian theme of suspense and disclosure in his object motifs, "His Gainsborough films show a young director constantly subjecting the medium to a barrage of experiments."
    When I wrote to Professor Murphy mentioning that we were looking at the  films of Hitchcock during an online college course offered here in the United States, he was kind enough to reply that he was glad that his essay had been of use.
     Alma Reville, who married Alfred Hitchcock in 1926,  co-scripted no less than three films for Gainsborough studios during 1928 and 1929. They were to include "The Constant Nymph", directed by Adrian Brunel and starring Ivor Novello, "A South Sea Bubble", directed by T. Hayes Hunter and starring Ivor Novello and "The First Born", directed by actor Miles Mander and starring the director with actress Madelaine Carroll.
     Knowing the strained sense of humor of Alfred Hitchcok, it would only be conjecture or interpretation to claim that one McGuffin throughout his work would be the cameo shots of himself that the director inserted into his film scenes- Alma OReville in fact starred in a silent film during 1918, "The Life Story of David Lloyd George", directed by Maurice Elvey who later found renown for directing "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". It would be even more fanciful to claim that Hitch was imitating the British Prime Minister in the cameos in order to make his wife, who followed him as a screenwriter through several films, smile. A more readily formed consensus may be that of spectatorship, that while the cameos are a cinema of attractions based on notoriety or celebrity, adding an extratectural or reflexive element, they challenge the diegesis of fictive narrative by opening the enclosed narrative space of fantasy- if only to exploit the theme of voyeurism in Hitchcock's films. Writing on Hitchcock,  Michael Walker, author of Hitchcock's Motif's, delineates diegesis as "the narrative world" and the world-within-the-frame, the onscreen framed image, "conceived as a unity". By immediately discussing point-of-view editing, the diegetic experienced through the subjective shot, he places a reference point for the viewer and spectatorship. Albeit the Hitchcock cameos are incidental, wherein lies their narrative value, Walker agrees with the consensus that the MacGuffin is a subjective concern of the character that inevitably has no importance to the plot outcome whatsoever and not the blocking of a director as an extra in order to interpellate the viewer into subject identification; and yet there maybe a cat-and-mouse to the cameo shots as a motif of ordinary life and routine society; rather than something which doesn't exist, it is the concept of the total stranger.
     In their full page profile on the feminity of Alma Reville, entitled Alma in Wonderland, Pictures and the Picturegoer, a British periodical, during 1925, not only avoided linking her romanticlly with her director but attempted to add an air of intrigue, reporting that she had visited Paris to buy dresses for the studio and then went on to Lake Como to where Hitchcock had already begun filming "The Pleasure Garden", it hinting that beneath her horned rim glasses, she was still a seething eligible female, who like Agatha Christie, could suddenly disappear into the flickering, darkened, silver auditoriums of the Jazz age.

Victor Seastrom

Silent Film

Silent Film

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Abyss (Urban Gad, Afgrunden, Denmark 1910)

Janet Bergstrom, in her paper Asta Nielsen's Early German Films, chronicles Asta Nielsen asking Urban Gad if he would write a film for her. "Afgrunden" not only secured an international audience for her but it heralded the film itself becoming an art form. Bergstrom notes Nielsen having written that she aspired to improve her acting ability by watching herself on the screen.

Although many films from the time period were adaptations of theatrical plays, "The Abyss" has no dialougue intertitles, but rather insert shots containing written letters. Both insert shots of printed material and dialougue intertitles are part of the diegesis of a silent film, whereas expository intertitles that either summarize the action or prepare the audience for it are not part of the film's diegesis, insert shots of letters bringing a more first person authorial camera that provides identification with the character.

Scott Lord Danish Silent Film

Friday, December 9, 2022

Scott Lord Silent Film: The Last Performance (Paul Frejos, 1929)

The stockmarket had apparently already crashed by the time "The Last Performance", starring Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin, was screened first run at the Park Theatre in Boston. Universal Weekly, primarily an advertising journal, after having remarked the film was "conspicuous for its camera effects and discriminating direction" tied in the New England premiere to its reception by excerpting three "leading newspapers", The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and the Daily Record. The Daily Record mentioned the film as having been one of the two "first rate pictures" then on the marquee of the Park Theatre, the other also produced by Universal. It may be important to the history of film appreciation that the paper had written, "The Philbin-Veidt is part talkie. But in some cases, the less talk, the better the picture. This is one of those cases, for Veidt is a high rating character actor and needs no dialogue to score his points."
An earlier issue of Universal Weekly, while noting that Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin had previously costarred together in the film "The Man Who Laughs", showed the trick photography in the film "The Last Performance" by providing a still from the film where the magician Veidt is holding Philbin in his hand. The Universal Weekly, owned by Universal Pictures Corporation, clarified itself with its captioned subtitle, "A Magazine for Motion Picture Exhibitors" and listed its editor as Paul Gulick. Letters to the editor to be published were addressed to Carl Laemmle, President. Interestingly, Author Anthony Slide gives an account of Mary Philbin having declined interviews after retirement, "Thanks to her reclusivity, she became a minor Garbo in the eyes of fans of silent film."
Silent Film Lon Chaney Bela Lugosi

Greta Garbo in The Temptress (Fred Niblo, 1926)

Greta Garbo as continuance of Vamp

Author Roger Manvell, in his volume The Film and the Public notes that after World War I, the genres that were already in place began to take a new turn with the new decade and that the star system that had emerged with silent film began to look for different interests to coincide with the new modernity. He writes, "the vamp, the siren, and even the shimmering courtesan played by Marlene Deitrich seemed dated, if not a little absurd. No great star has risen to take the place of Garbo and inherit her indisputable and hypnotic hold upon her world audiences." Manvell reinforces his impression, "The twenties became a wild period in filmmaking and themes of marital infidelity and liscence of all kinds were again carried to the heights of a new absurdity with titles like 'Temptation', 'Passion Flame', 'Flaming Youth' and 'La,La,Lucille'. The glamor star was in real demand and names like Pola Negri, Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo began to be well known."
While waiting for the next film to be made by Greta Garbo, Photoplay magazine during 1926 printed, "Yet an automobile almost kept Greta from Metro. Mayer had seen Miss Garbo's work in a foreign made film, The Atonement of Gosta Berling. THe picture is incidentally directed by Mauritz Stiller who is directing the second Garbo opus and it it considered an artistic gem, but aositive flop as so far as American audiences are concerned. For that reason it probably will never be released here." In actuality films from Svenska Bio were generally released years after they had been made in Sweden; the article continued to elaborate that Greta Garbo knew that movie stars were provided with limousines whereas Mayer would not include one in her contract! insisting that they were bought by the stars themselves. Having related the disappointment on the part of Greta Garbo and Mauritz Stiller when Stiller had not be asked to direct Greta Garbo in The Torrent, one that would have returned Garbo to Sweden had it not been for Stiller's encouragement, biographer John Bainbridge relates Stiller's optimism when assigned her second film, The Temptress. In Sweden it had been the reverse where Garbo had to audition for Stiller, a more than well known director who had already directed Lars Hanson in Erotikon, a film Greta Garbo had seen in theaters. "Now that he had been given a chance to direct his protegee his dark mood had disappeared. He was full of excitement and enthusiasm. 'At last,' he topld Lars Hanson, 'They'll see what Greta can do.'" Stiller wanted to open the film with a discovery shot, or revelatory shot, that dollyed back, pulled back, to show the wider context of the scene while establishing it location. "Telling Hanson of his plans, Stiller confidently predicted, 'We'll show them a thing or two.'" Upon arriving on the set, in a studio system that in regard to constructing the photoplay, had evolved from Griffith and Ince, Stiller was a prefigurement of the auteur, expressing his bewilderment that there would be an assistant director, an assistant producer, a script girl and other members of the film crew present on the set and attempting to dismiss them, "All I need is a camera and actors." The author continues, " 'They brought me here to direct because they liked my methods.' he told Hanson. 'Instead they try to teach me to direct.'" Lars Hanson explained further "Stiller tied to work in Hollywood the same way he worked in Sweden...He had his own particular way of making a picture. He shot scenes as he wished, not necessarily in sequence and not necessarily the ones he intended to use. He liked to shoot everything, and then make the film he wanted to by cutting. He could never stick to a schedule." Both John Bainbridge and Richard Corliss relay that there were stories of Stiller confronting a language barrier while instructing cameraman and that he would begin with "Stop" when he wanted to say "places, roll them, or action" and that he had interchanged "Go" with "Cut or Print" when the scene was to conclude, although the present author is uncertain as to whether it was included specificlly in the published reminiscenes of actors that often made their way into fan magazines or what their source may have been. Author Anthony Slide, while offerring biographies of one hundread silent film stars quotes actress Virginia Brown Faire on working with Greta Garbo and Mauritz Stiller,"That was just her first picture in this country and she had a difficult time with the English language. Mauritz Stiller was a big director in Sweden, but he was by that time a very sick man, although nobody seemed to know it. And every scene she did, he'd make her do over twenty times, at least...Garbo was difficult and remote."

Before the release of the film, Motion Picture Magazine attested to the experience and craftsmanship of Maurtiz Stiller as a film director by publishing a photograph from the set of the film which was captioned, "The dancing scenes of Greta Garbo and Antonio Moreno in The Temptress, which Mauritz Stiller is directing in this photograph, were filmed by a camera attached to a moving platform which followed them about the floor." If this were Stiller's only contribution to, or influence upon classical narrative and the temporal-spatial relationships of camera to subject, it would be notable, excepting that Stiller had previously filmed in Sweden and built the traditions of filmmaking there as one of its pioneers under Charles Magnusson. The Hollywood system that had evolved from Griffith and Ince had placed Stiller and Clarence Brown as directors that created camerawork and technique. 
Within a fortnight, two events occurred which seemed not to have shaken the on-screen Greta Garbo personna, or the need to create an off-screen Garbo character, as though they went unnoticed as more mystery around the recluse seemed to build. Biographer John Bainbridge writes of her sister Alva's passing away during the early filming of The Temptress, "As soon as Garbo informed Stiller of the tragic news, he dismissed the cast and took her home." Apparently Garbo was present when Stiller was dismissed and replaced, after ten days of shooting, as the film's director. She had been waiting outside the building during the conference, pacing the sidewalk. "Stiller was laid low with despondency and he was also ailing physically. As he sat on his terrace brooding, Garbo went about propping him up with pillows," Bainbridge records, "and doing what she could to cheer him up." According to Bainbridge, "when Stiller saw Thalberg after the premiere he delivered an invective about Garbo, as well as an excellant script, having been ruined by him." Motion Picture Magazine chronicled the event as nearly expected, "Stiller has sufferred from the fate that overcomes most foreign directors shen they come to Hollywood. He was unable to grasp an understanding of the business and technical end of making a motion picture in an American studio." In one of the many posthumous accounts of the career of Mauritz Stiller that appeared linking him to Greta Garbo, Ruth Biery intimated during 1932 that Stiller was removed from The Temptress because of an objection made by Antonio Moreno, the director apparently having insisted that the actor wear a pompadour to compensate fro Garbo's having had been being the taller of the two. Greta Garbo described to Photoplay Magazine her filming in The Temptress under the direction of Fred Niblo, "I could not undeIrstand the English directions. Week in, week out from seven untill six. Six months on the story. More than twenty costumes to try on over and over. That is why I donot care about clothes. There are so many clothes in every picture, I can not think of them when I am away from a picture. I never missed a day. I was never late for work." Photoplay inserted a paragraph on Greta Garbo written in bold type into one of its backpages during 1927, "Fred Niblo, who had directed the alabaster and ivory Garbo was making the usual introductory speeches. Remarking on the beauty of Greta's performance, he further said that it was most difficult to direct her for she spoke not one word of English. 'Do you?' queried Niblo turning to her where the Swedish lorelei sat. 'No', answered Greta slowly, perfectly, 'I do not speak one word of English.'" Irregardless of Greta Garbo having been reluctant to work with Monta Bell and preferring to remain under the wing of Mauritz Stiller, a look independent of that to the 1927 Motion Picture New Booking Guide and Studio Directory draws a contrast between the directors Monta Bell and Fred Niblo, the former depicted in biographical sketches as merely a novice, the latter as experienced as to where he would soon become head of the studio, Monta Bell, Metro Goldwyn Mayer director, is comparatively a newcomer to the motion picture industry." Where Bell is noted as having began with Chaplin, Niblo is noted as having begun with Thomss Ince and for his directing his wife, Enid Bennett, "Motion Picture Stars are not the only ones to claim interesting claim to backgrounds."
Film Daily during 1926 included a column of what it considered to be pertinent Newspaper Opninions, or newspaper clippings, on recently released films; these touted the "seductive charm of languid eyed Elena, the "gorgeous beauty" Greta Garbo, "who besides wearing stunning clothes can also act" and a Garbo that "vitalizes the name part of this picture." Motion Picture News during 1926 also carried a similar section entitled Newspaper Opinions on New Pictures, in which it quoted the exact same reviews, where, "Greta Garbo is a delight for the eye", "Greta Garbo makes every move a picture" and although they praised the newcomer Garbo in General a mild outlook was taken of her vamping, or being illicit as a mysterious foreign road to perdition, in the press quotes of that year. The Exceptional Photoplays department of National Board of Review Magazine credited William Daniels and Gaetano Gardino as having been the photographers of the film The Temptress, "The Temptress brings Greta Garbo to the attention of American audiences as an actress of note and unusual beauty...She is not half a minute on the screen before you know her as an artist,pliable and lively. This big starring vehicle gives her the ample opportunity to prove her versatility...The first Paris sequence is the equal in tonal quality and feeling of anything that has been done in films. It is true with strong character drawing. Miss Garbo makes Elena a breathing person." Motion Picture Magazine featured a still from on the set of the film captioned, "Fred Niblo insists on realism...and this scene of Tony Moreno and Greta Garbo in The Temptress promises to provide a thrill when it reaches the scene. Note the angle of the camera."
Bainbridge reviewed the film by writing, "Despite its florid subtitles and spurious plot, The Temptress was another distinct triumph for Garbo." Educational Screen Magazine, during a month in which it had reviewed the film Bardleys the Magnificient also looked at the film, "Most of this can be dismissed as perfectly ordinary.It is merely a tale of a siren who couldn't help attracting men, with an appended list of the fatalities...Miss Garbo as. Woman of the streets demonstrates a remarkable dramatic ability."               Photoplay reviewed the performance of Greta Garbo in the film briefly, "The Ibanez story is forgiven and forgotten when Greta Garbo is in the cast. Greta is a show in herself." Photoplay reiterated its sentiment, "While this Belasco-Ibanez story is crammed full of melodramatic action-much of it preposterous- Greta Garbo makes the proceedings not only believable, but compelling. Such a role strains at the probabilities, but Miss Garbo makes Elena highly effective. She is beautiful, she flashes and scintillates with singular appeal...'The Temptress' is all Garbo. Nothing else matters."
There is a report that M.G.M purchased the talking rights to both The Torrent and The Temptress in 1932. Bent Forslund adds,"Her first two films, The Torrent and The Temptress, both in 1926, were insignificant, but showed that she had appeal. The audience liked her." The screenplays to the first two films in which Greta Garbo had appeared, The Torrent and the Temptress (nine reels) both had been adaptations of the novels of Vincente Belasvo Ibanez, their having been titled Among the Orange Trees and The Earth Belongs to Everyone, respectively. When interviewed by Motion Picture Magazine, novelist Vincente Belasco Ibanez was quoted as having said, "The future of the camera is limitless. Now it is going ahead very fast. There is no standard in the cinema. Why do the artists not get together and set up standards?"
The novels written by Vincente Belasco Ibanez also include "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse", filmed after "Blood and Sand" in 1921, "Enemies of Women" (Crosland 1923), starring Alma Rubens, and the film "Marie Nostrum" filmed in 1926 by Rex Ingram. The lost film "Circe, the Enchantress" (Robert Z. Leonard, 1924) featured a screenplay written by Ibanez specifically for the actress Mae Murray.

     Motion Picture Magazine reviewed the film by noting, "It must be admitted that The Temptress is a bore. It would seem to be a story of a woman whom all men love and whose curious fate is to destroy all men who love her- but not through her own will but as an inevitable consequence of her fatal lure...She at length atones by destroying herself to save the one man she really loves...Greta Garbo as the unhappy temptress, has a role which required of her precisely nothing...Antonio Moreno's role calls for a little more." The magazine also published photo of Greta Garbo "vamping" before the film's release, captioned, "Judging from the oval photographs above, The Temptress is well named. Although Greta Garbo has only been on the American screen for a short time, she enjoys quite a vogue."
Motion Picture News included among the films Production Highlight the "atmosphere, settings and fine editing" Its Exploitation Angles included "Play up Greta Garbo and Antonio Moreno and mention others of fine cast." Its review of the film read, "It may be defined as a tragic melodrama, one which is treated intellectually and with considerable imagination...Fred Niblo demonstrates again that he can be trusted to breathe in this type of I'm story- one which is similar in outline to Ibanez's other story creation Blood and Sand...Moreover, it is splendidly cast with Greta Garbo as the sinuous siren and Antonio Moreno as her Spanish lover." The Over the Teacups section of Picture Play magazine during 1926 quoted someone named Fanny the Fan, who had attended a "cat party" given by screenwriter France's Marion. Among the guests that night were Lillian Gish, Vilma Banky, Anna Q. Nilsson, Patsy Ruth Miller, Lilla Lee and Kathleen Key.  Marion that night screened a new Norma Talmadge film in her small theater. During the article, Fanny related having previously met Greta Garbo, who was "fascinating to look at." (Picture Play) "Kathleen Key is working in The Temptress with her and she says that it is an inspiration to watch her. Incidentally, Kath got her role in that because of her expressive, big eyes. Mr. Stiller, the Swedish director that is making the picture asked for the girl with the biggest eyes, and Kath got the part without any argument."

Monday, December 5, 2022

Scott Lord SIlent Film: Wax Works (Paul Leni, 1924)

Paul Leni directed the expressionistic film "Wax Works" before coming to America to direct the films "The Cat and the Canary" and "The Last Warning". Leni had worked as an art director with director Leopold Jessner on the film "Backstairs" (Hintertroppe, 1921), an "intimate drama" (Eisner) that moved "at a very slow, heavy pace" (Eisner). Silent Film

Friday, October 28, 2022

Lost Films, Found Magazines: The Lobby Cards of Lost SIlent Films

Words and images that tell us what the film was about. Lost Films and Found Magazines

The article on Dartmouth professor Mark Williams was relevant, pertinent and succinct enought to require giving the name of the reporter, Kathy McCormack rather than just mentioning the Associated Press. Not being involved in film preservation itself but devoted to he study of the Photoplay, I have for years been gleaning through extratextural discourse, that which is not part of the codex of the film, to find what might have been contained in film that, for whatever reason, are now lost. When the article on lobby cards went to print, I had already had a blog entry with reproductions of lobby cards belonging to films mostly that were not lost, and being in public domain, were available through copies on my webpages, each copy of an existing film having an appended encouragement for the reader/viewer to become a film detective and find material concerning lost films-Lost Films, Found Magazines. In regard to the movie theater having similar exingencies as a museum, the lobby cards were displayed on easels and meant to be viewed by standing directly in front of them at a short distance, there being an audience reception to extratextural discourse, just as there is a "viewing" of paintings that has been changing during this century. A librarian paraphrsed by McCormack has posted that the purpose of the lobby cards were publicity and exploitation, the theater owner being an "exhibitor", but that, being aimed at the spectator, they disclosed the movie's plot, the technology soon improving to where the mood and atmosphere of the film could be surmised from the photographic images. The librarian quoted by McCormack claims that in additon to data regarding the film-and titles were often changed during production to differ from an earlier advertised title- lobby cards could often include a line of dialouge, if only one precious line of dialouge that would be a key to an entire lost film- lobby cards that were not "title cards" have been referred as "scene cards", Dartmouth College in fact had a collection of television commercials it had lent the Moving Image Rearch Center while McCormack was writing her article. The Moving Image Research Center houses material on Lois Weber and Alice-Guy Blanche. Mark Williams is presently part of he Media Ecology Project at Dartmouth College, which is digitalizing thousands of lobby cards to assist Film Preservation. Keep in mind that there have been a small number of rediscovered films, once presumed to be lost, one example being my writing on the John Barrymore version of Sherlock Holmes, which needed to be updated after the film had been found.

Rudolph Valentino Silent Film Lobby Cards

Mary Pickford Silent Film Lobby Cards

Douglas Fairbanks Silent Film Lobby Cards

D.W. Griffith Silent Film Lobby Cards

Lon Chaney Silent Film Lobby Cards

Benjamin Christensen and Danish Silent Film