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THE BARKER (1928)


Guest dredagain

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Here's a film I'd really like to see....

 

This love-and-revenge story set in a carnival was a famous film of its era, one of the first goat gland films, and a film that solidified the comeback of Betty Compson with an Oscar nomination.

 

In doing a little research on this film I discovered it was restored with its original Vitaphone sound by UCLA a few years ago. The contemporary reviews were terrific for Compson as well as Milton Sills and Dorothy Mackaill. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays the son (he was about 18).

 

Has anyone seen this one? I always thought it ranked among the lost films.....

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The UCLA restoration of THE BARKER has been shown at the university's biannual Festival of Preservation, as well as at the Cinecon festival in Los Angeles. I wasn't able to attend either screening, but it may still be making the rounds.

 

And you can always schedule an individual viewing appointment through UCLA, if you happen to be in Los Angeles.

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And you can always schedule an individual viewing appointment through UCLA, if you happen to be in Los Angeles.

 

 

How easy is this to do? This isn't the first time I've heard someone suggest this, but I thought one had to be an academic doing research, or writing a book in order to gain access to these archives.

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As far as I know, anyone can make a viewing appointment. They'll have you fill out a form and ask you what the purpose of your visit is, but you can just say you're doing "personal research." You don't need to have academic credentials to be a researcher.

 

At UCLA, they do charge a small fee for watching films that are on 35mm. If the film is on 16mm, however, they'll transfer it to a video tape and you can watch it in their media room for free of charge.

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I've always felt that Milton Sills is a very unfairly overlooked silent era star, and that if only more of his films were avilable, he would develop a following. He was always in tough-guy big action stories, sort of like John Wayne.

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one contemporary review of THE BARKER I read said Sills' spoken line delivery was GHASTLY....

 

I think I paid $15/hour at Eastman to watch 5 Swanson films on a Steinbock flatbed editor... or some name like that... The films were worth every penny

 

Message was edited by: drednm

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I have seen/heard one of Sills' talkies, and he seemed to have a perfectly acceptible speaking voice, a gruff, perhaps a bit tobbacco or alcohol influenced one, but suitable to the roles he was cast in. It was similar to that of Charles Bickford. I don't mean to imply he was a rummy or anything, actually he seemed to be more or less fit, or tried to stay fit (He died playing Tennis!) for his age. He was often playing a tough, hard-bitten character, abused by life, left cynical and tightly wound up. Maybe he overdid it in THE BARKER, but we'll have to see it for ourselves to judge. The thing about old reviews is they are often poor. The easiest to access are those from THE NEW YORK TIMES. All their reviews were collected in a few volumes for library reference. But their critics over the years that we care about were effite twits like Mordant Hall. They hated anything that popular taste loved. They misunderstand things and loved things we now ignore out of boredom. The only really useful film reviews in the 1920's and 30's in America come from trade papers like MOTION PICTURE HERALD or HARRISON'S REPORTS. A few general interest magazines like JUDGE and LIFE( the pre 1936 one) have good, lively reviews that often reflect a modern sensibility. Early "reviews" in TIME often are little more than "spoiler" recountings of plots!

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well again, I have nothing against Sills and that was just one review.... often times it was the actual recording equipment that made actors sound bad even when they had perfectly fine voices.

 

THE BARKER is definitely a film I want to see!

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with the UCLA restoration of THE BARKER, apparently they found a Vitaphone disk that had the soundtrack but it was broken into 3 pieces.... they were able to put it back together and re-record it and edit out the scratches.... amazing

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That's exciting news. I'm always happy to hear that a vitaphone feature might be ressurected. Most of the time the powers that be seem to only find the elements and funding to restore those ephemeral one reel vaudeville acts, and the features remain out of reach.

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Clara Bow's last film *Hoop-La!* (1933) was a remake of *The Barker*. I just watched it yesterday and it was pretty good. I thought everyone did a good job except Richard Cromwell as the son, but I don't like his acting style. He seems like the very definition of wooden. Clara didn't want to do it b/c she didn't like remakes (one more reason to love her!) but she needed to make one more film to fulfill her two picture deal at Fox so she relented and made it.

 

 

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Yes HOOPLA was pretty good with Clara Bow, Preston Foster, and Minna Gombell all good. I didn't care much for Cromwell either.

 

In THE BARKER, it was Dorothy Mackaill who had Bow's role and Betty Compson had Gombell's, but Compson got the Oscar nomination. I had always assumed Compson and Bow played the same part. Milton Sills had the Foster role and a young Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. played the son

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I can definitely see Betty in the role Clara played. That's cool that she got an Oscar nod for her part though. I don't think I've seen any of Betty's movies but she an actress that I like just based on the little I know about her and from seeing movie stills and promo pics of her. She was in *The Spoilers* with Gary and I'm pretty partial to most actresses that worked with him.

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see my current article on Betty Compson at midnightpalace.com

 

I think Compson is one of the great undiscovered treasures of silent films and early talkies. I've never seen THE BARKER but I can imagine Compson in this film. HOOP-LA was a fine film aad once again showed that Clara Bow was a good actress.

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  • 12 years later...
  • 6 months later...

Betty Compson's silent film career was one of ups and downs and she was on the rise again in the late 20s when talkies came in and she nailed her role in THE BARKER (basically a silent film with a few talking sequences).  A contemporary story, maybe Adela Rogers St. John (?), said Hollywood audiences rose and cheered for Compson's performance, which netted her an Oscar nomination. For the next few years Compson was one of the busiest actresses in town.  Oddly, a similar story was that of Bessie Love, who also roared back to the top in an early talkie, THE BROADWAY MELODY, won an Oscar nomination and was one of the buesiest actresses in early talkies.

THE BARKER was restored by UCLA about a decade ago (including the Vitaphone sound disks), has been shown at a few festivals, but remains tied up in stupid copyright red tape.

Compson was a talented violinist and in STREET GIRL (1929) has several scenes where she gets to display her musical talent.

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