Saturday, 19 March 2011

Eleanor Boardman, outspoken & outstanding: Souls for Sale (1923), The Crowd (1928)

Eleanor Boardman, "the most outspoken girl in Hollywood", was also one of the most outstanding and intelligent actresses of the silent era.

Watching her naturalistic expression in potentially hazardous melodramatic situations in "Souls for Sale" and "The Crowd" is quite startling.

"Souls" was thought lost until the 1980's and is perhaps one of the first "films about films" featuring intriguing cameos showing Chaplin filming "Woman of Paris" and Erich von Stroheim shooting his masterpiece, "Greed". Eleanor rings totally true as Remember "Mem" Steddon who, literally, stumbles upon Hollywood in escaping from her murderous husband.

There's a genuinely thrilling climax (my 13 year old daughter confirms this) as a storm fuels a fire raging on set following the return of Mem's husband.

Eleanor is also the stand out in husband King Vidor's "The Crowd" as the wife of James Murray's near-hopeless dreamer, Johnny Sims. She anchors the drama throughout, never over-playing and ensuring the success of its tale of urban family struggle.

As John Coleman reviewed in The New Statesman. following the film's revival at the London Film Festival, "What a superbly controlled performance Eleanor Boardman gives; and what a sweetness she had, uncloying, instinct with life."

This film is surely one of the very best American silent films and deserves a plush remastering for DVD.

A lot more people should know her work!

Souls, actually, for sale here.
Join the crowd as well.
Go here for a biography of Ms. B.

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