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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Fifty Years of Film in 50 weeks, #10: Anna Christie, 1930

 I'm now 20% through my blog project, and entering a new decade. It's appropriate that since Greta Garbo was such a major star during this era, that I include one of her films. 

Anna Christie, 1930

Director: Clarence Brown
Writers: Frances Marion, adapted from the play by Eugene O'Neill
Cinematographer: William Daniels
Produced by Clarence Brown, Irving Thalberg, and Paul Bern for MGM 
Starring: Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion, Marie Dressler

Why I chose it
This film rose to the top of my shortlist for Greta Garbo, but also for director Clarence Brown. Many years ago I was impressed with what he did with Valentino's Russian romp The Eagle, and vowed to explore more of his films. I learned of his vast impressive filmography, from the silent days to studio-era classics such as Intruder in the Dust, The Yearling, and National Velvet

That the film was recommended by a film friend and tied for first on my Twitter poll solidified my choice for 1930.

'No-spoiler' plot overview
After being separated from her father Chris (Marion) for most of her life, a young Swedish-American woman, Anna (Garbo), returns to seek shelter with him on the coal barge he captains. Unbeknownst to him and the young sailor she falls for (Bickford), her past is clouded with rape and prostitution. Eventually, she is forced to reveal these details to those she loves and risk their rejection.

Production Background and 1930 in Film History
In some ways, MGM was taking a risk with this film, with Garbo a silent film superstar but so many others becoming victim to the talkies because of their thick accents or other challenges adapting to the new medium. Fortuitously, the script, based on Eugene O'Neill's play, called for his protagonists to be Scandinavian-American, giving perfect screen to Garbo's accent. The film was marketed by MGM with the famous "Garbo Talks!" tagline. They had secured the services of veteran actor George F. Marion (he was born in 1960!), who had originated the role of Chris Christophersen in the Broadway run of the film as well as the 1923 film version. A version in German was also shot at the same time, starring Garbo but featuring a different supporting cast. 

Director Clarence Brown was nominated for two Oscars for films in 1930: this one, and Romance, also starring Garbo.

Some other notable film-related events in 1930*:

  • The first daily newspaper for the Hollywood film industry, The Hollywood Reporter, had its debut.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) was the first major anti-war film of the sound era, faithfully based upon the timeless, best-selling 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Although it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, it was criticized as being propagandistic and anti-militaristic. 
  • German stage revue actress Marlene Dietrich starred in her first Josef von Sternberg film, The Blue Angel (1930), playing the role of cabaret singer Lola-Lola and performing her signature song: "Falling in Love Again (Can't Help It)." Her performance in the first major German sound film led to a contract with Paramount in the US. 
  • The movie industry began to dub in the dialogue of films exported to foreign markets.

*Thanks to Filmsite.org

My Random Observations
  • Garbo is not a favorite of mine; while she is usually a glamorous, elegant, and sympathetic screen presence, her acting style brings a touch too much melodrama for my tastes. Yet here, I appreciated what Garbo did with the film's early version of Anna - the fallen, lower class, rough and cynical woman. She left her glamor in her dressing room and convinced as this character. Later, she transformed to a more poised, elegant version of Anna that better matched Garbo's type.
  • Not being from Ireland, I don't know if Charles Bickford's thick Irish accent was a good one, but it sure sounded like it! Bickford had a long Hollywood career and I love it when he shows up in a film. Bonus points if he gets to play a romantic lead.  Although his role here stretches the definition of romantic lead, considering his extreme roughness.
  • Garbo's and Dressler's characters are seen coming into the bar using the "Ladies' entrance"--I had no idea that such a thing existed. A little internet research set me right. According to Madelon Powers in her University of Chicago Press book called Faces along the Bar: Lore And Order In The Workingman's Saloon, 1870-1920,  a 'ladies entrance' served three purposes:  “First, it permitted women to enter inconspicuously and minimize public scrutiny of their comings and goings… Second, women’s entry through the side door eliminated the necessity of their running the gauntlet through the establishment front room . . . undisputed male territory.  . . .  Finally, the side door afforded women quick and convenient access both to the far end of the bar, where they could purchase carry-out alcohol and to a second chamber known as the ‘back room,’ where they could feast on free lunches or attend social events hosted there.” Who knew?
  • My second choice for 1930 film was Min and Bill, also a working-class drama starring Marie Dressler, who was the supporting character, Marthy, in this film. Like George Marion, Dressler was also born in the 1860s and was a theater veteran and considered today one of the greats in early cinema. It never gets old to witness performances of actors whose careers flourished over a century ago.
Screenshots
Christophersen (Marion) and his companion Marthy (Dressler)
meet up at their favorite watering hole.

Anna (Garbo) arrives at the bar and develops a bond
with Marthy, a kindred soul.

Anna's face and body language signal melancholy and
uncertainty in what she will find returning to her father.

High angle shot of the Anna's new environs.

Anna begins a life of dutiful domesticity aboard
her  father's barge.

Rugged sailor Matt Burke (Bickford) checks 
Anna out in the fog.

Anna and Matt getting to know one another.

A fun 'date' in the city.

Lovely shot of Anna with Brooklyn Bridge

Christophersen and Burke have competing
designs on Anna.

High melodrama: Anna and her father during
a moment of reckoning.

Is a happy ending possible for these three?
Where to Watch
The film can be streamed for a small fee on many streaming platforms, including Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube.

Further Reading
Danny of Pre-code.com discusses the film here, highlighting how it conforms to conventions of pre-Code cinema, and like me, admit to not being a huge Garbo fan. As usual, TCM has an excellent essay on the film here.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Fifty Years of Film in 50 weeks, #9: Rio Rita, 1929

"Ziegfeld's colossal girl-music spectacle" (see film poster below) ushered me into the talkie era, and quite an experience this was!

Rio Rita, 1929

Director: Luther Reed
Writers: Luther Reed, adapted from the book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson
Cinematographer: Robert Kurrle
Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld and William LeBaron for RKO Radio Pictures
Starring: John Boles, Bebe Daniels, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey

Why I chose it
The title 'Rio Rita' reminded me of 'Rita Rio', the stage name of singer/actress/orchestra leader Dona Drake (see her 'soundie' with Alan Ladd here). When this film popped up as an option for 1929, I immediately put it on my shortlist, and then it won my Twitter poll. It also had the advantage of being my first 'musical' of this film project.

'No-spoiler' plot overview
James Stewart (John Boles) is a Captain of the Texas Rangers assigned to the Mexican border to track down a mysterious bandit named "Kinkajou." Across the Rio Grande he meets the vivacious Rita (Bebe Daniels) and the two instantly hit it off. Complications ensue when the local Governor, General Ravinoff (Georges Renavent), who has designs on Rita, sows distrust between Rita and James with the suggestion that Rita's brother Roberto may actually be the "Kinkajou" that the Captain is pursuing. Meanwhile, another, comic, love triangle develops between honeymooning Chick Bean (Wheeler), his new wife Dolly (Dorothy Lee), and his former wife Katie (Helen Kaiser). It doesn't help that Chick's lawyer and sidekick Ned Lovett (Woolsey) gives very questionable legal advice.

Production Background and 1929 in Film History
Rio Rita originated as a hit Broadway musical in 1927, with lyrics by Joseph McCarthy and music by Harry Tierney.  Produced by the famed Florenz Ziegfeld of the Ziegfeld Follies fame, the musical brought together Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey and set them on their decade-long career as a comic team. The film version gave Wheeler and Woolsey their break in Hollywood, and it became the biggest-grossing film for RKO in 1929. The film was re-released in 1932 and shorted by 1/3 (15 reels to 10 reels). Today, the five reels that were cut are believed to be lost, although some audio exists of the missing parts. It was remade in 1942 with Abbott and Costello in the Wheeler and Woolsey roles. I've not seen that one, but I've read that it's quite a different script. Finally, according to Steven C. Smith in his biography of famed film composer Max Steiner, Music by Max Steiner, Rio Rita composer Harry Tierney was responsible for getting RKO to hire Steiner, who later went on to write fantastic scores for them, including King Kong (1932).

Some other notable film-related events in 1929*:

  • The Marx Brothers first film The Cocoanuts, was released by Paramount.
  • With its launch in 1929, The University of Southern California became the first university in the country to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in film. The school's founding faculty included Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, William C. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Irving Thalberg, and Darryl Zanuck, among others.
  • Taking full advantage of the advent and popularization of sound films, studios released many notable musicals: Hallelujah, the Academy Award-winning The Broadway Melody, the aforementioned The Cocoanuts, and of course this film, Rio Rita.
  • Silent superstar John Gilbert released his first talking film, His Glorious Night. His lack of success at the box office and lukewarm reaction by fans started his precipitous career decline.
  • Walt Disney Productions was formed.

*Thanks to Filmsite.org

My Random Observations
  • Wow! This movie had it all - Singing! Dancing! Laughter! Romance! Mistaken Identity! Cowboys! Bandits! Border shenanigans! Color! Black and white! 
  • Seriously, as I watched this film I was reminded of other very early "talkie" film musicals that were more 'revues', or at the very least, light on coherent plot. Released the same year was the Oscar-winning The Broadway Melody, and the following year was 'King of Jazz', both of which I saw within the last 2-3 years. Rio Rita shares with these films very mannered and stage-like acting, and certainly a 'theater-like' production design. I doubt very few films could be considered more 'dated' than these. 
  • Nothing says "dated" more than the garish reds and greens of two-color technicolor. Yet despite and maybe because of the extreme 'datedness' of the film, I felt truly transported to another era and was entertained by spending time there. 
  • In some ways, the film is made by Wheeler and Woolsey. These vaudeville performers were natural screen comedians and displayed charisma and exceptional comic timing during their scenes, full of both slapstick and wisecracks. While I'm not normally a big fan of "low comedy", I appreciate what these two could do, and found myself more than a little amused watching them. They had an extended sequence where they rhythmically traded face slaps that both made me wince (ouch!) and gasp at the brilliant choreography displayed.
  • While Bebe Daniels was fine as the titular character, I didn't find much in her performance that signaled the star status that had accompanied her in her early years in film.
Screenshots
Chick (Wheeler) and his bride Dolly
(Dorothy Lee) make a grand entrance.

Ned (Woolsey)breaks the news to Chick that he may
not be legally married after all, ruining his honeymoon plans.

Chick and Dolly 

The current and future wives of Chick at a standoff with
Ned as referee.

Jim (Boles) serenades his love (Daniels) with the song 'Rio Rita'

Jim eyes Rita's brother suspiciously.

Where to Watch
It's available on DVD from Warner Archive.

Further Reading
Don't miss NY Times film critic Mordaunt Hall's original review of the film here. In his summary, he quips "it is an evening of good music, enjoyable fun and constant screen-fulls of striking scenes that cause one to wonder how much such a production cost."

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Fifty Years of Film in 50 weeks, #8: Underground, 1928

Underground, 1928

My first--and mostly likely NOT last--British film of the series is a visual feast and emotional ride on the Tube.

Director: Anthony Asquith
Writers: Anthony Asquith
Cinematographer: Stanley Rodwell
Produced by British Instructional Films
Starring: Brian Aherne, Elissa Landi, Cyril McLaglen, Norah Baring

Why I chose it
When a good film friend recommended this one and offered to loan me her copy, I jumped at the chance to include my first British film in this series. I had considered watching one of Hitchcock's silents, or the lauded Lillian Gish vehicle, The Wind, but Underground rose to the top. I was especially curious to see Brian Aherne in a silent film, and also Norah Baring, who I had only seen in Hitchcock's early talkie Murder!

The following gifs are shared by permission of my friend Vânia from aintthatakick.tumblr.com:

Lovers above ground.

Brian Aherne is the film's protagonist.

'No-spoiler' plot overview
Bill (Aherne) is a porter/attendant in the London Underground who immediately becomes smitten with retail salesgirl Nell (Landi) when he notices her on a long escalator at an Underground station during the morning commute. In the same setting, though, she also meets and charms Bert (McLaglen), an electrician who works for the transit system. Bert pursues Nell aggressively, but the only problem is Bert is loved by his neighbor, the sweet Kate (Baring), who runs her own dressmaking shop. This love quadrangle heats up in multiple ways, with jealous rages and dirty tricks, until tragedy strikes. The film culminates in an incredible chase scene.

Production Background and 1928 in Film History
Anthony Asquith, the son of a UK Prime Minister, studied filmmaking in the U.S. before he began as a director in his native England. He was only 26 years old when he made Underground, his second feature. I loved this quote from Asquith: "In England when you make a movie, even the weather is against you. In Hollywood, the weatherman gets a shooting schedule from all the major studios and then figures out where he can fit in a little rain without upsetting MGM too much." Asquith later developed a reputation for directing theatrical dramas like Pygmalion and The Winslow Boy.

Anthony Asquith (IMDb.com)

Underground is notable for its stunning visuals, of course, thanks to cinematographer Stanley Rodwell, but perhaps even more for the location settings: the London Underground scenes were filmed in and around the Waterloo Station, and the power station scenes were filmed in the Lots Power Station, now defunct. The film was little seen after its release, and I couldn't find details of its release in the U.S. although it must have screened in NYC at least, as it was reviewed by Mordaunt Hall in the NY Times. In 2009 the film received a restoration by the British Film Institute, and was burned to DVD. It was released to UK cinemas again in 2013 to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the Underground subway system. 

Some other notable film-related events in 1928*:

  • After their success with The Jazz Singer, Warner Brothers releases their first 'all-talking' film, The Terror.
  • RKO Productions, evolving originally from the Mutual Film Corporation (1912), was created in the merger of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the Film Booking Office (FBO) and Keith-Albee-Orpheum.
  • The animated character soon to be dubbed "Mickey Mouse" made his debut in the Disney short film Plane Crazy.
  • Charlie Chaplin released The Circus, the fourth feature-length film he directed.
*Thanks to Filmsite.org

My Random Observations
  • If anyone wanted to argue that silent film is a lesser art, this film would be among those I would show them. The masters of this art created a new medium of storytelling through moving black and white images that is worth discovering nearly 100 years later. In this film, Asquith delighted in contrasting scenes of dark and light, 'underground' and above ground', and he juxtaposed the beauty of his protagonists (Aherne and Landi, and McLaglen and Baring to a lesser extent) with the ugliness and idiosyncratic visages of random people around them. The camera was as active as the actors, taking along audience members as we journeyed along the tracks and streets.
  • Based on the amount of shadows and canted angles, it is hard not to recognize the impact of German expressionism. There were some obvious symbolic shots that some viewers may find 'over the top', but I absolutely loved them. See some of them in my screenshots below.
  • It was fun to see Elissa Landi and Norah Baring again, two actresses that I'd only seen in a total of three films to date: After the Thin Man and The Count of Monte Cristo for Ms. Landi, and Alfred Hitchcock's Murder! for Ms. Baring.
  • I had no idea prolific character actor Victor McLaglen had an acting brother; it turns out that he had four! Cyril McLaglen was his younger brother and didn't resemble his more famous brother much in my opinion, yet his rugged face was tremendously expressive, moving from bashful to menacing within moments.
  • I can't wait to see more of Brian Aherne. A native Brit, he made many films in Hollywood in the early talkie era when he was at his most handsome, leading-man phase (although his career lasted into the 1960s). It won't be long before I pick out of few of these to watch (What Every Woman Knows, The Constant Nymph and The Fountain all look interesting).
Screenshots

We're on the train as it approaches the station platform
teeming with passengers.

Bert (McLaglen) eyes Nell (Landi) as they sit side
by side riding the Underground.

Superimposition of images telegraphs tragedy ahead
as Kate (Baring) confronts Bert.

Bert's hair and face in shadows enhance our fear of 
him in a crucial scene.

We see the back of Kate as she approaches
the ominous Lots Power Station as dark clouds hover.

Nell hides while observing Bert.

Kate pretends to have a fainting spell to distract Bill.

The local barmaid isn't missing a thing.

Bert flicks a piece of lint off Bill's shoulder in a parallel
act of Bill's from earlier in the film. 

A shadow covers Kate's eyes as she looks out her 
window to watch Bert approach.

The initial intimacy between Bill and Nell is
caught only as a shadow.

First close-up of handsome Bill (Aherne)

At the film's end we pull away from the largely vacant platform.

Where to Watch
I expect this can be found by subscribing to the BFI streaming channel, but it doesn't appear to be accessible anywhere else online. Otherwise, there is the DVD release from the BFI on Kino Lorber.

Further Reading
The British publication The Guardian published an article on the 2013 re-release of the restored film in cinemas here.
Fellow blogger Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings posted a review of the Kino DVD release of the film. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Fifty Years of Film in 50 weeks, #7: 7th Heaven, 1927

 "Chico.....Diane.... HEAVEN!" 

7th Heaven, 1927

Director: Frank Borzage
Writers: Based on a play by Austin Strong, and adapted by Benjamin Glazer.
Cinematographers: Ernest Palmer, Joseph Valentine
Producer: William Fox and Sol M. Wurtzel for the Fox Film Corporation.
Starring: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Albert Gran

Why I chose it
I had read a bit about the film years ago, and so I was already inclined toward it even before I realized it would be my second film in a row with 'heaven' in the title! I was also curious to see more of Frank Borzage's work, having loved Moonrise on first viewing a few weeks ago.

'No-spoiler' plot overview
Chico is a sewer-worker in pre-WWI Paris, and Diane is a young woman forced into prostitution by her older, abusive, sister Nana. During a particularly abusive episode, Diane is knocked out on the street and nearby Chico defends her to keep her out of jail when the police, having arrested her sister on prostitution charges, come around looking for Diane. He offers to put Diane up in his 7th floor flat until police detectives are convinced that she is his 'wife.' This ruse works, but the two eventually fall in love, having grown accustomed to their new life of fighting poverty together. The couple trade their wedding vows right before Chico is called off to fight in the Great War.

Production Background and 1927 in Film History
In the prolific film year of 1927, 7th Heaven is perhaps best known today for its strong showing at the very first Oscars. The Motion Picture Academy had just formed that year, and in 1929 inaugurated the annual awards ceremony we celebrate today. In that first ceremony, films from both 1927 and 1928 were honored, and 7th Heaven took away three: Best Director for Frank Borzage, Best Actress for Janet Gaynor (the award also recognized her work in Sunrise and Street Angel), and best adapted screenplay for Benjamin Glazer. The film was also one of three nominated for Best Picture, but lost out to Wings. The third one nominated was The Racket

Some other notable film-related events in 1927*:

  • Warner Bros. released The Jazz Singer to great acclaim, and the success of the film effectively sounded the death knell of the silent era.
  • But the silent era was still reaching new heights as an art form, with films like F.W. Murnau's Sunrise, Abel Gance's Napoleon, and Fritz Lang's Metropolis now considered among the best films, silent or otherwise, ever made.
  • The Hays Office released the first version of The Motion Picture Production Code, which dictated what could and could not be shown in a film. 
*Thanks to Filmsite.org

My Random Observations
  • Director Borzage was known as a master of romanticism, and I can see why. He makes us feel pity for his downtrodden protagonists, but also joy at how they bring 'heaven' to each other's lives. It's tremendously sentimental, but the opposite of maudlin. He also effectively uses humor to add dimensionality to these characters...for example, the scene in which Diane is trying to cut Chico's hair.
  • The version of the film I watched incorporated a musical score by pianist/composer Keith Taylor. I detected variations of several tunes from Puccini's beloved opera La Boheme, including "Che Gelida Manina" and "Quando me'n vo" -- completely apt, considering its story of poor lovers living in a Parisian garret apartment. Interestingly, the film was one of the first to be released with a recorded musical soundtrack.
  • Charles Farrell was one handsome dude, little-remembered today, despite a long career in the entertainment business. This film was the first to pair him with Janet Gaynor, and the two were such a compelling couple, that they were cast opposite one another several more times. Apparently the two had a relationship off-screen as well, but Farrell was too much of a party-animal for Gaynor (!).
  • While the title '7th Heaven' may primarily invoke the 7th floor apartment of the lovers where their own personal 'heaven' is revealed, and the ecstacy of their own first love, to me, the opening of Chico's heart to God or at least the power of the supernatural, is evoked here as well. At the outset of the film he complains that God has never answered his prayers but later he uses religious medals to symbolize his union to Diane. The touching of those medals open up a supernatural wavelength such that the lovers could "communicate" when separated during the war.

Screenshots
Diane in fear of her abusive sister.

Happy-go-lucky Chico contemplates a future above the sewers
while Diane lies near the gutter behind him.

Diane and Chico rise a series of staircases on the 
way to their 'seventh floor heaven.'

Chico is unsure of what Diane is doing to his hair.

On the front, Chico takes time out to 'visit'
with Diane at their 11:00 AM meeting time.

Comic relief comes from a taxi driver (Albert Gran)
 and his ill-fated car 'Eloise'.

Diane and Chico negotiating the terms of 
their relationship.

Where to Watch
Once again, YouTube comes through. The print is not particularly good, and I hope to get the DVD someday. 

Further Reading
A bit more production background on the film and its stars can be found in this essay for the National Film Preservation Board.
For a detailed exploration of Borzage as a person, and director, go here

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Fifty Years of Film in 50 weeks, #6: For Heaven's Sake, 1926

"Fellers, if this guy can preach like he can hit, it's gonna be a tough season for Satan."

For Heaven's Sake (1926)

Director: Sam Taylor
Writers: Ted Wild, John Grey, and Clyde Bruckman
Cinematographers: Walter Lundin
Producer: Harold Lloyd (uncredited) for the Harold Lloyd Company; distributed by Paramount
Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Noah Young

Why I chose it
Two reasons, really. The first is that I had sadly neglected Harold Lloyd's films when I developed a strong interest in silent comedy and watched every extant film from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Second, during a somewhat stressful week, a comedy appealed more strongly than it ordinarily might.

'No-spoiler' plot overview
J. Harold Manners (Harold Lloyd) is a wealthy, spoiled, but eternally optimistic young man from "Uptown" of a large city, who accidentally makes a grant to establish a Mission in the rough "Downtown" neighborhood. In trying to get his name off the Mission's marquee, he begins to soften when his heartstrings are tugged by the Mission founder's charming, pious young daughter, Hope (Jobyna Ralston). Trying to make a good impression, Harold is pressed to get a gang of pool hall toughs into the Mission, leading them on a zigzag chase through the streets with this ulterior motive. Sequestered in the Mission, the gang fends off the attention of the beat cops, who are out to apprehend some petty thieves. Later, a series of further misadventures threatens to derail his wedding to Hope, catalyzed by Harold's snooty uptown friends' efforts to prevent him from marrying below his station.

Production Background and 1926 in Film History
Nebraska-born Harold Lloyd made over 200 films in his career, from the second decade of the 20th century to about the mid 1930s. As bankable box-office, Lloyd used his business acumen, understanding of the medium, and his own comic charisma to consistently build his audience. Like his contemporaries Keaton and Chaplin, Lloyd eventually founded his own company and wielded creative control over nearly all aspects of film production. For Heaven's Sake came after two of his most famous films, The Freshman, and Safety Last; but apparently Lloyd didn't like the film, at least partly because he had to rework the script from a version deemed too expensive to film. Yet it was highly successful, becoming the 12th highest grossing film of the silent era, beating out any of Lloyd's other films. 

Some other notable film-related events in 1926*:

  • The first surviving feature-length animated film was released (The Adventures of Prince Achmed) in Germany.
  • Future star John Wayne made his debut feature film appearance as an uncredited football player in the college comedy-drama, Brown of Harvard (1926).
  • Screen sensation Rudolph Valentino died at the young age of 31, sparking hysteria among his legions of fans. 
  • Major studios were ramping up efforts to produce commercially viable sound films, such as the Warner Bros. Vitaphone technology and Fox's Movietone technology.
  • Buster Keaton released The General
My Random Observations
  • Perhaps Lloyd wasn't crazy about the film, and the gags were reworked from earlier films or inspired by Chaplin or Keaton, but minute for minute I had a heck of a ride with it - I don't think my broad smile ever left my face during the 58-minute running time.
  • Apparently the original film script had Lloyd playing his usual "boy-next-door" type. The change was in the film's favor, in my opinion; I loved Lloyd playing this rather clueless millionaire - he cut a dashing figure, and his costumes and posing just added to the laughs.
  • I find Jobyna Ralston a delightful, charming actress and the perfect partner for Lloyd, even though I've only seen her in this one and in The Freshman. I know Lloyd married another of his leading ladies, Mildred Davis, who was also wonderful, but Ralston stands out for me. 
  • Did police routinely have shoot-outs on busy streets with motorists riding in open-top vehicles?? This early scene was funny for its absurdity, but I was reminded of scenes in many early films, both comedies and dramas, in which cops didn't think twice about pulling out guns on streets crowded with bystanders and fire multiple times at escaping suspects from quite a distance. Did this really happen in the first half of the 20th century? I need to research police practices a bit.
  • The physical gags and use of crowds of extras reminded me of some of Buster Keaton's best work (like his short Cops). All very well done and no trick shots.
  • So many of the bit players and likely extras cast as the toughs and vagabonds were so well-costumed and made up, adding to the verisimilitude of the production. (See images below).
  • Speaking of bit players, here's a shout-out to Steve 'Broken-Nose' Murphy (1876-1953), who I recognized from his roles in some of Chaplin's and Keaton's films. If Central Casting was called to produce a rough-looking dude with a smashed-in nose, Murphy was your guy!

Screenshots

Money flows like water for our uptown hero.

He wrecked his white car, so he'll write a check for a new one.

Harold asking Brother Paul (Paul Weigel), Mission founder,
what he's gotten himself into.

Cherubic Hope (Jobyna Ralston)

It doesn't seem like a good idea for a cop, or anyone else,
to fire a gun from an open top moving vehicle on a busy street.

"Roughneck" Noah Young is Harold's chief antagonist, 
and is king of the angry pantomime!

The hilarious crowd chase scenes stack one on top of another.

I love these bit players reluctantly sharing a hymn book to 
avoid exposure to the cops.

Even the head beat cop joins in the singing.

Harold struggles to get a group of drunks onboard a streetcar.

Where to Watch
Once again, YouTube comes through. This was a nice quality print with the Robert Israel score, which was also featured on the DVD from New Line Cinema.

Further Reading: Fellow blogger friend Laura G. also loved this film. Read her review here.