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Constance Talmadge--the first feminist heroine


Guest dredagain

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Ed,

 

Blast, I thought it was actually Constance Talmadge, not Norma? It has been a long time since I have seen INTOLERANCE.

 

I recently ran across a copy of the extremely hard to find Thames Carl Davis scored version of this film on VHS, but I still do not have it yet. Hopefully, I will soon? It is on Two Tapes.

 

Sadly, this rare edition has not been released on DVD, and I don't think it was even released on Laser-disc? At least I have not been able to locate a copy anyplace? I wonder why?

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The Babylon arc of INTOLERANCE was re-assembled and released as a film called THE FALL OF BABYLON in 1919... by 1919 Constance Talmadge was a star in her own right. I wonder if this film still exists???

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Another great article that makes me wonder how QUEEN KELLY and DON JUAN made it into theatres years later with their blatant misogyny, at a time when women were bobbing their hair, tossing their corsets and entering law and medical studies, politics and journalism. I would hope people stood to cheer those Talmadge performances, back in the day.

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thanks, Gulch.....

 

I think the flappers of the 20s were the first "moderns" but the more traditional heroine continued to exist in film and fiction. But think about all those bobbed-hair ladies in the 20s. No wonder Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, Marion Davies, Laura LaPlante, Bessie Love, Constance Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, Dorothy Gish, and Betty Compson were so popular in the late 20s. And yes Swanson could play a zany modern with the best of them as in MANHANDLED, FINE MANNERS, STAGE STRUCK.....

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And I recall your article on Colleen Moore which brought to mind the old Buddhist proverb- 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear' and some people were ready to open their minds to Colleen Moore, Gloria Swanson (a renaissance woman), Louise Brooks etc. as early advocates for people's freedom to choose...such good material for fine art curriculums.

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"...(it) makes me wonder how QUEEN KELLY and DON JUAN made it into theatres years later with their blatant misogyny...."

 

 

QUEEN KELLY was never shown in the US until some 40 years later, and had only a brief run in Europe in 1929. Many comedies of the 1920's and 30's had misonynistic tone to them. Many of the Hal Roach shorts had either wives that were shrews, or young women who were gold diggers as part of their plots.

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> QUEEN KELLY was never shown in the US until some 40 years later, and had only a brief run in

> Europe in 1929. Many comedies of the 1920's and 30's had misonynistic tone to them. Many of the

> Hal Roach shorts had either wives that were shrews, or young women who were gold diggers as

> part of their plots.

 

Wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

QUEEN KELLY was shown in Argentina in 1932, which is not Europe. The people who wrote about this film, they never bother to investigate beyond their snobbish roots.

 

Yes, it is true that the film had a brief run. The only reason was that by 1932 nobody wanted to see silent films even though other countries were still producing them.

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QUEEN KELLY was previewed in Stamford, CT in early 1932 (its only American showing) and received bad feedback. This version of the film was Swanson's attempt to salvage something and to release a synchronized sound version. This was after von Stroheim (who demanded it be a silent film) was off the project.

 

When Swanson started the QUEEN KELLY project it was her intention to include "sound" of some sort but she was vetoed by von Stroheim and Joesph Kennedy (her producing partner and lover). Swanson was certainly "in the know" and was very aware of the changes in Hollywood and she was keen on capitalizing on her recent independent films THE LOVE OF SUNYA (a modest hit) and SADIE THOMPSON (a smash hit). As a producing partner in United Artists Swanson was trying to fulfill her contract and keep her career going as Hollywood approached the itchy sound era. She also had been taking voice lessons. She had every expectation that QUEEN KELLY would be include sound (music) and color.

 

After the debacle of QUEEN KELLY Swanson quickly turned out (with the writer/director Edmund Goulding) THE TRESPASSER and entered the talkie era. The film was a smash hit in 1929 and briefly returned Swanson to the top of the Hollywood heap. She and Goulding wrote and filmed THE TRESPASSER in something like 3 months.

 

THE TRESPASSER is another gem that hasn't been seen since its initial release. I saw it in Rochester, NY (at Eastman House who owns the only existing copy) and Swanson is truly marvelous in it. She has a beautiful speaking voice, she sings ("Love, Your Spell Is Everywhere"), and looked fabulous. The story may be turgid by today's standards (a weepie if ever there was one) but it was good enough to be redone as THAT CERTAIN WOMAN for Bette Davis.

 

One wonders what QUEEN KELLY might have been if Swanson had been able to follow her own instincts.

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Gloria Swanson's autobiography Swanson on Swanson was a doorstop for months before becoming one of my favourite books this past summer. Her alternate ending to QUEEN KELLY on the restored version is natural and dignified in contrast to Stroheim's approach which was uncomfortable to watch, like walking alone at night on a deserted street. Ultimately, she was the boss on that production and her recollection (in her book) of a conversation with a Catholic cardinal in regard to the Joseph Kennedy affair illustrates her strength of character. DON JUAN was campy in its absurd treatment of women and I like to think people roared with laughter and shook their fists at that one. Also Barrymore's character, like many men in literature, is treated as a fop- so art is and equal opportunity stereotyper. Often, the root of misogyny is anger towards a mother who failed to protect a person from an abusive/absent father- hello Mr. Freud! I still see women in those silent films as breaking out, standing tall, squaring their shoulders, knowing themselves, riding western, dancing from their souls and baring more than their shoulders and ankles! Mary Pickford and Marion Davies were shrewd business people and role models that made people sit up and take notice. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is at one of this continuim but I, personally interpreted her as a person, transcending age and gender.

 

drednm-

You saw THE TRESPASSER!!!!!

Well, it's good to know there is a copy in safekeeping.

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Yes I went to Rochester October 2006 and had private showing of 5 Gloria Swanson films, all in pristine and glorious condition: THE TRESPASSER, ZAZA, STAGE STRUCK, FINE MANNERS, and FOR BETTER FOR WORSE.... each was a wonderful experience. THE TRESPASSER would probably not be seen as anything special now but it was a huge success in 1929. FINE MANNERS and STAGE STRUCK were magnificent silents. The former a "shop girl" comedy/drama with Swanson acquiring "class" so she can marry a rich man; the latter a super comedy with Swanson a hash-house waitress who aspires to be an actress. The Technicolor sequences in STAGE STRUCK were amazing and Swanson was G O R G E O U S.....

 

ZAZA was a fun comedy with Swanson as a French show girl (remade in 1939 by Claudette Colbert), and FOR BETTER FOR WORSE a moving drama from the late teens with Swanson marrying the wrong man after her true love is maimed in the war.....

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Jon... Brooks was a willful and self-destructive woman who started out as a dancer with Denishawn (she danced with Ted Shawn) and moved into films where she was rising fast at Paramount when she started to get "difficult" about her roles, leading men, etc. She really didn't care about being a movie star and bailed on her contract to go to Europe. When Paramount called her back for retakes on the new sound version of CANARY MURDER CASE she refused to come back. After her bug European successes in the Pabst films she cam back but Hollywood pretty much froze her out. She made minor appearances in talkies through the 30s and toured in a dance act.

 

She could have had a solid film career but she just didn't care enough, and when she decided she wanted it, it was too late. Brooks had a habit of using people and then discarding them.

 

Her biography by Barry Paris shows this pattern throughout her life. She discarded he dance career, her Hollywood career, her family, and even as an old lady, she discarded James Card (of Eastman House) who rescued her and helped establish her as a writer.

 

While Brooks is an amazing and mesmerizing figure in several silent films, in real life she was a very difficult woman with self-destructive tendencies....

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Ed,

 

This is an excellent article. Very well written. It's been quite awhile since I last saw Griffith's INTOLERANCE.

 

I must say that THE PRIMITIVE LOVER (1922), and THE DUCHESS OF BUFFALO (1926), are both delightful Romantic comedies. They definitely make me anxious to see much more of Constance Talmadge starring feature films of the 1920's!

 

Sad to say, I have seen precious little of Norma Talmadge! In-fact, I am not all that certain that I would even recognize her right away?

 

Message was edited by: gagman66

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thanks, Jeff.... all I have of Norma Talmadge films are some short films from the teens and her 2 talkies.... none of her 20s silent features exist that I know of.... DuBARYY, WOMAN OF PASSION isn't very good but it's watchable, but NEW YORK NIGHTS was much better than I had expected and Norma is very good in it.

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I recently ran across a copy of the extremely hard to find Thames Carl Davis scored version of this film on VHS, but I still do not have it yet. Hopefully, I will soon? It is on Two Tapes.

 

I got my copy (what, 15 years ago?) from Columbia House video club and returned it as defective, since 1 channel had no (HiFi) audio. The replacement, likewise. I think I even asked for a third one, and certainly requested they open and double-check for defects after being "stung" already. They won't/wouldn't ship anything that had been opened, even though I was authorizing it. Whatever.

 

The good/bad news is that the soundtrack is/was mono, anyway, so playing the one track through both speakers was a natural solution. Should have been (and probably the original was) stereo, though. Just so you'll know.

 

Bill

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When you are in a theater, in front of an orchestra, the human experience is mono.

 

Well, I'd never expected to see that: Actually, even if you're far back from the orchestra, it's surround sound. It's the sounds coming at you from above, behind, beside, etc., that cue you in to what size place you're in, whether there are auxiliary instruments playing from the balconies, that sort of thing.

 

I worked with one (very unusual) pianist years ago who insisted he be recorded in mono, "since I'm only playing one instrument." He was, of course, ignoring the fact that he wasn't playing in an anechoic environment; even in a soundproofed radio station there are directional cues. And he, himself, seated at the keyboard, was receiving LOTS of left-right and even forth-back aural info on his playing. That's not to say there aren't/haven't been stereo recordings that are actually "better" (that's opinion, certainly) when played in mono because they were too widely separated and have the old whole-in-the-middle phenomenon. And there were "stereo" recordings issued (including into the early Beatles era) that were never intended to be heard that way; simply recorded on two tracks so the instruments and the voices could be balanced ("mixed") later. Many pop items from the '56 to '58 era were done that way. Even a couple of the RCA (and others?) operas that were issued in mono and rumored to exist in stereo were simply vocal/instrumental on two-track, well after they were recording true stereo orchestral and pop things.

 

There are many movies finally receiving stereo treatment that were mono for so long, even when we had the stereo OST discs, so we knew they were recorded that way. The Davis score for "Intolerance" must certainly have been recorded in stereo, though not issued that way on the VHS two-tape set. There were many tapes (and early DVDs) I never bought because I knew eventually they would show up in stereo; I'd rather not have had them, than to have them mono.

 

Bill

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"Jon... Brooks was a willful and self-destructive woman who started out as a dancer with Denishawn (she danced with Ted Shawn) and moved into films where she was rising fast at Paramount when she started to get "difficult" about her roles, leading men, etc. She really didn't care about being a movie star and bailed on her contract to go to Europe. When Paramount called her back for retakes on the new sound version of CANARY MURDER CASE she refused to come back. After her bug European successes in the Pabst films she cam back but Hollywood pretty much froze her out. She made minor appearances in talkies through the 30s and toured in a dance act."

 

"She could have had a solid film career but she just didn't care enough, and when she decided she wanted it, it was too late. Brooks had a habit of using people and then discarding them."

 

In some ways, Louise Brooks reminds me of Constance Bennett, who at times was equally diffident about her career; after making a splash with several films in 1925, she married a wealthy young man, became part of high society, and didn't return to movies until 1929. The difference was that Constance was part of a well-known theatrical family, and had the connections -- as a result, she was given the benefit of the doubt. Brooks never had that to fall back on.

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I don't know much about Bennett's private life but Brooks had a habit of burning her bridges and the example of CANARY MURDER CASE was pure Brooks. After she burned that bride with Paramount there was little chance of coming back to any major studio. And if Brooks was hoping her German and French movies would re-ignite public interest in her, she miscalculated since those movies didn't get shown in the US for years.

 

Odd that you mention Bennett since Brooks was "adopted" by the Bennett family and was close friends with the girls, especially Barbara.

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Most women I talk to today on a regular basis, if you ask them "Do you consider yourself a feminist?" will scrunch up their faces and say "no!" vehemently. The radical feminists are not seen in a positive light, even today. Their agenda is more important than people. Their agenda for abortion, for instance, has been responsible for the murder of 40 million little people, innocents, half of them female, sacrificed on their altar of convenience.

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