Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum and watches THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH

It's been too long since I've been at my favorite silent film museum, not that I'm complaining, I've just been way too busy at film festivals. Anyway, I was back there last Saturday night, and a good time was had by all...well, at least a good time was had by me. I can't speak for everyone else, but they seemed to have fun, too.

THE CURE (1924): On of the Koko the Clown Out of the Inkwell cartoons (where the Fleischer brothers invented rotoscoping). Koko the clown has a toothache, and coincidentally so does his animator Max Fleischer. Koko's bespectacled bunny rabbit pal manages to help out Koko, and then they turn their attentions to Max. Funny stuff, playing on a few dental-related visual puns (e.g., "bridge").

BE YOUR AGE (1926): On of our favorites at Niles, Charley Chase is a very shy clerk. To get the money necessary to help out with a hilariously long string of tragedies back home, he has to woo a wealthy widow. BTW, an odd quirk of the language at the time, sometimes the act of wooing, flirting, whispering sweet nothings, etc. was called, "making love." So the intertitles can seem much, much dirtier than intended to today's audiences. Anyway, beside that bit of unintended humor, the wacky hijinx are pretty funny on their own.

Then a brief intermission, and on to the feature film.

THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926): Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky star in a drama of the desert and political/business intrigue surrounding irrigating the Imperial Valley of California. Gary Cooper co-stars in his breakout role (much of the plot is a love triangle between him, Vilma Banky, and Ronald Colman.) Gary Cooper looks really, really young (umm...because he was really, really young) but has a clear star presence on screen. But what interested me most was that it was shot in the Black Rock desert. For those not in the know, that's where the Burning Man festival is held every year, and where I've been every Labor Day week/weekend since 1998. So it was pretty cool to see "the playa" almost 90 years ago. A lot of it is pretty different, they shot in some of the few locations, near the edge of the vast alkali wasteland where there are a few scrub bushes growing. And, of course, with an old western town there it doesn't look quite the same. But when there are frequent shots of the flat expanse and the hills in the background, there's a nice little rush of familiarity that I liked. Oh, and the story and the acting were great, too.

Total Running Time: 124 minutes
My Total Minutes: 323,313
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