Monday, 23 July 2012

The Lodger (1927), Nitin Sawhney, LSO, Barbican, London


The latest in the BFI’s Hitchcock restoration project, this screening of The Lodger took place at London’s Barbican Centre with the London Symphony Orchestra performing a new score from Nitin Sawhney.

Robin Baker, Head Curator at the BFI explained that none of the original scores remain and so this presents the opportunity to commission new music which can redefine and reconnect these films for modern audiences.

Sawhney has impressive credentials and has scored a number of films - he's even been nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for Film and TV Composition. Here his music featured a large formation from the LSO as well as his own band who provided piano, percussion, cello and vocals. Playing in front of the mighty LSO must take some courage and I had particular admiration for drummer Martyn Kaine who had to make everything swing but musicianship was excellent from all parties.

The soundscape was lush and closely tracked the emotional flow of Hitch’s first thriller. The only issues I had were with the songs interspersed in the score which jumped the narrative gun on one at least one occasion and threatened to prick the bubble… Other than that though, the music was pretty sensational including the lovely vocals - ambitious and as powerfully emotional as the film.

The Lodger seems heavily in debt to German expressionism and yet with that earthy music hall comedic touch that lightens even the most sinister Hitchcock. I overheard one audience member saying that she wasn’t sure whether some of the acting was deliberately funny but my silent film rule of thumb  would be that if something is funny,  it’s generally meant to be: we haven’t changed that much.

The acting matches the expressionist agenda but there’s a whole range in this film from the Golden Curls girls naturalistic post-show chatting to the more tortured emoting of victims, suspects and the unlucky in love. It’s “arch” and there’s a very knowing – very British – mix of horror and humour.

The film kicks off with a scream as the latest victim of the serial blonde assassin, The Avenger, is cut down by the killer. Hitchcock then shows us the excited reaction to the killing across London, fuelled, as ever, by the press – “Murder – wet from the press!” screams one of the inter-titles (strikingly rendered in expressionistic style by E. McKnight Kauffer).

Only a few decades after Jack the Ripper, Londoners responded to fear of serial killer in their midst through a mixture of outrage and humour… people pull faces and imitate the killer’s appearance (scarf pulled over face)… even Joe the Policeman  jokes that the killer likes the golden hair, just like him.

After the “Story of the London Fog” is established the film shifts to the interior world as we encounter the Buntings with mother (Marie Ault), father (Arthur Chesney) and their daughter Daisy (June Tripp here referred to as Miss June). They are in the basement of a townhouse not far from the Houses of Parliament and are entertaining Joe Chandler (Malcolm Keen), a policeman who is romancing Daisy.

This relaxed domesticity offers a stark contrast to the frenetic goings on of the outside world. Joe offers Daisy pastry hearts and flirts with her… yet we get the feeling she’s not entirely convinced. But Mum looks on pleased with her daughter’s reliable beau…

Their cosy routines are disturbed by a knock on the door and Mrs Bunting goes upstairs to find the strangest fellow standing on their threshold. A tall stranger, with scarf wrapped over his face, has come looking to rent their spare rooms. This lodger is revealed to be Jonathan Drew (an unearthly Ivor Novello) who is mysteriously withdrawn and looking for short term accommodation in spite of his dress and treatment of money marking him out as a man of wealth.

Hitchcock piles on the clues that begin to implicate Drew in the Avenger killings… his scarf is worn in the same manner, he nervously hides a mysterious briefcase in his room and then asks for the portraits of blonde woman to all be removed… (quite why there were so many is not revealed…).

On top of this he is indeed a “queer fellow” as one of the characters observes, intense and detached and not conforming to social norms. Clearly he is hiding something but we don’t know what.

He disturbs the household but begins to respond to Daisy’s warmth and willingness to take him at face value. Daisy’s a “mannequin” and with broader horizons than her family and boyfriend… Drew is something new and interesting. They start to relax in each others’ company and play chess in his room. She glances at this strangely handsome man whilst he gazes intently at her blonde locks… It’s like an off-beat version of the Thomas Crown chess game.

But we have doubts about Drew and when he leaves the house late in the evening, Mrs Bunting wakes and peers out of her window as he enters the night. There’s great light and shade in this sequence with Drew descending the darkened staircase and the dim light of the street lights illuminating Mrs B as she begins to wonder if this man may be even stranger than he appears.

And, as every Tuesday, there is another murder that night…

Drew attends one of Daisy’s fashion shows and buys her one of the dresses she parades. This is too far for the Buntings and father returns it with some straight talking. Drew creeps out towards the bathroom where Daisy is bathing and we’re treated to a proto-Psycho moment as Daisy’s supreme vulnerability is set against the presence of a potential killer.

By now Joe has also had enough and confronts Drew only for Daisy to side with the new man. Distraught, the policeman begins to put two and two together as it looks increasingly likely that the lodger is the killer…
I won’t give any further details of the plot… you really have to experience this one to be “thrilled”.

This English expressionist film feels more “influenced” than Hitchcock’s next film, The Ring and is more mannered in acting terms with Novello, cast firmly against type. He’s not as naturalistic as Lillian Hall-Davis in the latter film but his haunting and strangely conflicted, performance serves this story well.

The other performers contribute to an overall feeling of the mildly grotesque, especially the gurning Keen.  Marie Ault has more nuance and arguably plays the character we most identify with…safe in our domestic routines but having to take a chance on a stranger to make ends meet. June Tripp is also good as the heroin who puts her love on the line for a long shot…

The Lodger is currently available on a dirty old DVD but I’d hold off for the restored version to become available. The BFI have again done a fantastic job, especially given the source material – there was no negative and this was the most damaged of the “Hitchcock Nine”.

The screen shots here pre-date the restoration – it is quite something. Roll on the next one…

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Edward Sloman + Mary Miles Minter… The Ghost of Rosy Taylor (1918)

Edward Sloman films are as rare as hens’ teeth as, indeed, are those of Mary Miles Minter. According to Grapevine Video (who’s print I watched), MMM had four extant whilst Sloman only five.

Whilst both figures have been revised upwards in recent years, there’s very little left from a combined total of over 150 films made by both and when you hear the debate about how much silent film has been lost, it’s people like these that keep the ratio tragically high.

But at least we have something. I enjoyed watching Sloman’s 1926 film Surrender with its inventive direction and a DVD release is rumoured – something worth re-watching in hopefully superior quality.

According to Kevin Brownlow, this earlier effort from 1918, showed similar evidence of Sloman’s vision and editing skills. Sloman himself professed it one of his “less mighty” works… he may have left Britain far behind but he retained the endless self-depreciation of the true English gentleman.

The Ghost of Rosy Taylor is indeed well-crafted light entertainment, featuring an interesting narrative structure and some state-of-the-art cross-cutting and parallel story telling. It makes a mystery out of a melodrama and retains your interest through deft marshalling of an effective cast and smooth storytelling: it’s very well-paced.

The film begins with the well-off Mrs Jeanne Du Vivier (Helen Howard) discussing how pleased she has been with her new housekeeper, Rosy, with the woman who placed her in their employ. The latter is suddenly shocked as she reveals that Rosy died shortly after she gave her the letter of appointment and couldn’t possibly have been at the house.

A practical woman, no doubt used to taking charge, Mrs Du Vivier sets off with friend Mrs Herriman-Smith (Marian Lee) to de-bunk the idea that a ghost has been responsible. Yet, when she arrives, there’s a mysterious floating white figure at the window, the rattling of chains and a ghostly voice singing Rosy’s favourite song… The two women flee.

We flash-back to France some year’s earlier where an exiled American businessman Joseph Sayles (George Periolat ) lives with his pretty young daughter Rhoda (Mary Miles Minter). Their life is happy if impoverished and Rhoda dreams of one day returning to America. But her father cannot return and, upon his sudden death, she discovers that he had to leave following a financial scandal.

With no means of support she works her way back to America where she finds streets that are paved with hard, barren concrete… She has barely enough money to stay for a while in the modest lodgings of the Mrs Sullivan (Kate Price) and is on the verge of being thrown out when she comes across a letter addressed to Rosy Taylor with the key to the Du Vivier house and an initial payment for new role.

The house is occupied by Du Vivier’s brother Jacques Le Clerc (Allan Forrest) who immediately takes a shine to Rhoda but believing her to be a thief, sends her to a women’s reformatory for help. This is the last thing she gets though and, being described as a “menace to society”, she is locked away by the centre’s manager, Charles Eldridge (also played by George Periolat…).

As Brownlow notes, this section intercuts between Mrs Sullivan cleaning her room and Rhoda’s encounter with Jacques… Sloman’s experience with DW Griffith in full display!

She manages to escape and returns back to Mrs Sullivan, who sends the reformatory lady away with a flea in her ear. With no place left to go she returns to the Du Vivier house where she finds - a present left for her by Mrs Du Vivier’s daughter. It is a dress and she puts it on in delight – her first decent break!

Spoilers ahead: But Rhoda has been followed by the woman from the reformatory who calls in the police…it’s looking bad but … Jacque senses that there’s more to this girl than meets the eye and he arrives at the Reformatory to see Rhoda identify herself to Mr Eldridge, the man she now realises is her uncle.

She explains what happened to her father and that he was the innocent party, his brother to blame… Eldridge accepts this and asks her for forgiveness. A happy ending will ensue.

A fairly typical tale of its time, Rosy is never-the-less well told and pretty well acted by the cast. Sloman was none too impressed by Ms Miles Minter describing her as the most beautiful youngster he ever saw but the worst actress.

This is a frankly *challenging* print but you can still see the truth of at least half of that sentence. MMM is indeed very pretty but she does act pretty well too. She’s no Pickford in terms of dramatic ability, but she’s good in this role…as far as the eye can see through the fog of the multiple-copies. This may well be attributable to her director, who knew what he was dealing with.

The Ghost of Rosy Taylor
is out of print and you will need to search hard for it. There is an excerpt on which is in better quality than the Grapevine Video so, here’s hoping that one day we’ll see Rosy with greater clarity!

In the meantime, it’s worth the effort to see The Other Girl with the Curls as well as one of the under-stated masters of early Hollywood film-making.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Ring (1927) with Soweto Kinch, Hackney Empire, London

Lilian Hall Davis and Carl Brisson
This extraordinary event was the third in the BFI’s season of restored Hitchcock silent films and it’s going to be hard to better. A packed audience in the Hackney Empire -one of London's finest Victorian theatres - witnessed the rebirth of The Ring with a thrilling new jazz score from the Soweto Kinch Sextet.

I’m not sure whether it’s a stylistic thing or whether British films just feel closer to me as a native, but The Ring offers a grittier, more prosaic contrast to many Hollywood films, with characterful – ordinary - English faces and much imperfect dental work on display. The world of The Ring doesn't feel so far away.

English folk at the fair...
The fact that we were in Hackney, a stone's thrown from Alfred Hitchcock’s home turf helped in this reconnection. It’s a vibrant place with a rich cultural mix - earthy as well as intellectual - the perfect setting for this pugilistic tale.

The evening was introduced by representatives of the BFI who explained the restoration work performed on what was nearly a lost film. The team had to work with severely warped and deteriorated stock and also to painstakingly recreate the inter-titles. The result is a stunningly clear new print that was all the more impressive on the big screen. Most of the screen shots here are from previous versions and they bear no relation to the new version – there are a few shots from that which highlight the massive improvement.

Carl Brisson, Lilian Hall Davis and Ian Hunter
The BFI gave us a questionnaire to complete before and after the film and one of the questions was whether we enjoyed the film or the music the most. This was impossible to answer as the score from Soweto Kinch and his sextet infused the film with life and new feeling as well as embellishing the existing narrative… A new experience based in equal parts on both elements.

This exuberant groove was mixed with older sensibilities to create a thoroughly modern mood – Hackney past and present collapsed into one exhilarating mix.
Cutting a rug...

As for the film, it was one of three that Hitchcock made in 1927 and is the only one he directed from his own script.  It is very well made with directorial influence from expressionist cinema as well as Gance and Epstein (shots in the fair are similar to Cœur Fidèle, with the camera strapped into a ride as lovers are thrown about). Hitchcock was intent on showing interior dialogue and feeling as well as external action.

The opening sequence is probably the best in the film, directed with a sure hand throughout and showing the excitable chaos of the fairground. Here we find 'One-Round' Jack Sander (lissom Carl Brisson) who takes on all-comers and easily beats them.

He operates from one of the tents from which the exuberant Showman (Harry Terry) calls out to the public to try their hand as his trainer (Gordon Harker) holds up the placard proclaiming his ability to knock out opponents in “One Round”.

Lilian Hall Davis
There’s a pretty girl selling the tickets, Mabel (Lilian Hall Davis), who looks on bored… Her eye catches that of a tall man in a bowler hat and he comes over to chat. He is Bob Corby (Ian Hunter) who, unknown to all, is the Heavyweight Champion of Australia.

Accompanied by his manager/promoter James Ware (Forrester Harvey) the two enter the tent to watch Jack in action. Here the action is expertly mixed with the reaction of the audience. Hitchcock marshals a cast of extras who are striking in their ordinariness… men build up the courage to get in the ring but all are easily and comically despatched.

Ian Hunter
Bob climbs into the ring and suddenly things change and we see him and Jack trade blows of equal skill and force. Bob wins and Jack faces the consequences of the end of his act. Yet Bob wants him for his sparring partner and his manager sees potential in this new find.

Manel and Jack have been saving up to get married and this new career offers them the chance to realise this dream…yet Bob has taken a shine to the girl and makes advances from the outset, buying her a bracelet with his winnings. This becomes the symbol of their relationship as well as a ring that mirrors the boxing ring and the marriage ring.The ring represents conflict as well as binding love; it always means that you have to fight to win out.

Jack wins his first professional bout and marries the girl on the proceeds. There’s a great scene as the fairground freaks arrive for the wedding and then a marvellous wedding party at which Jack’s trainer gets so drunk his viewpoint is shown as blurred and distorted…we’ve all been there.

Bob has lost the initial round for the girl but Jack will need to be wary and to meet his adversary on equal terms if he is to keep his love.

In parallel we are shown the development of Jack’s boxing career, as he moves higher up the billings, whilst at the same time his wife is being wooed by Bob and taking part in London’s unrelenting nightlife. There are some great party sequences which worked spectacularly well with Kinch’s music: making us want to dive off to the nearby Vortex club for some after-show freestyle Charleston!

Gordon Harker and Carl Brisson
The closer Jack gets to boxing success though, the more it seems his wife is off gallivanting… he earns the right to challenge Bob for the British title but his wife leaves him and is seemingly on his opponent's side: has it all been in vain, can Jack win the fight and win back his wife?

Carl Brisson and Lilian Hall Davis
Needless to say, Hitchcock handles the finale with panache, staging the fight in the Royal Albert Hall (or what he makes look like the RAH) with much tension between the three main characters. It’s one of the first films to use a boxing match as the dramatic centre and, whilst we have become used to this over the years, the denouement is no less exciting for this. Again the score worked superbly well by building up the beat alongside the contest and ensuring that the primal reaction to watching a fight left us all shuffling in our seats!

Carl Brisson had been an amateur boxer and his moves are sure footed against the heavier Ian Hunter. Both act well and strikingly, Hunter’s character isn’t really a “baddie” just a rounded human being looking for the right girl.

Lilian Hall Davis

That girl is exceptionally well played by Lilian Hall Davis who gives a subtle and believable portrait of someone caught between two destinies. She kept on reminding me of Kiera Knightley for some reason – similar features – and is the main face of the film. She is superbly naturalistic and doesn’t overplay some of the overt symbolism.

She was also to feature in Hitchcock's The Farmer's Wife (1928) but died tragically young. There are details on the BFI website.

The Ring is available in so-so quality on DVD and also on the Internet Archive but for the real deal best wait for the restored edition whenever it comes... it'll be worth the wait.

Details of Soweto Kinch are on his website from which you can download his latest album  The New Emancipation.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Douglas Fairbanks in… Robin Hood (1922), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Cadogan Hall, London

Smiling Through (covered last week) may have been one of the biggest hits of 1922 but this film was the monster, pulling in over $2.5 million, creating the “Blockbuster” and underlining the star power of the uniquely energised Douglas Fairbanks.
Robin Hood was shown in the plush Byzantine-style environs of London’s Cadogan Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing a wonderful new score specially composed by John Scott, who also conducted. In his programme notes, Scott describes how in the process of writing the music he developed a very personal intimacy with the actors…” ghosts, that were very much alive at the time and at the pinnacle of their creative powers”.

It is to his immense credit, that this relationship was transmitted through his score; soulful and energetic music that was beautifully played by the RPO – with special mention to the brass section whose muscular blasts drew audience to film in an almost physical way!
All of this was very much in the spirit of Fairbanks and, introducing the film, Scott revealed an even greater connection: the presence of Fairbanks granddaughter, Melissa along with her daughter: “…proof that Fairbanks is immortal.”

Originally entitled Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, the film was directed with panache and considerable bravery considering the budget and the risk, by Allan Dwan, but was produced and written by Fairbanks who no doubt found time to pitch in with the odd idea on how the film should get made.

The result is a bone fide classic which still packs a visceral punch with loads of thrills, spills and merriment against the backdrop of one of the most massive sets ever constructed in Hollywood and it feels like it… You can’t fake “huge” with in-camera trickery the scale is there for all to see and sets the film off on an epic footing from the start: as close to 3D as it was possible to get in 1922.

Douglas Fairbanks, of course, is excellent as Robin Hood, a role that was surely made for him. He bounces around and free-runs across the set, climbing up the castle walls and sliding down the drapery in a manner reminiscent of the Thief of Bagdad. He’s exhausting!

The other elements of acting charm are also fully on show as Fairbanks runs the gamut of emotions as King Richard's loyal Earl of Huntington falls from grace, is dispossessed by Prince John and finally gets redemption with the girl, naturally, thrown in for free.

We all know the story but this version is one of the key templates for all that was to come and differs in emphasis. There’s more on the “origin” with the first half of the film focused on Huntington’s role at court and his friendship with larger-than-life King Richard (“…and the role of Wallace Beery is played by King Richard” quipped Scott, giving due respect to Beery’s own unique presence and power).

The regime is challenged by the dastardly Prince John (Sam De Grasse giving an excellently evil turn) and his thoroughly-repugnant henchman, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Paul Dickey).

The story begins on a grand day of jousting, in which the noble Huntington (Fairbanks) emerges triumphant (defeating the cheating Gisbourne) much to the chagrin of John but to the delight of Richard and the Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Enid Bennett winsome but somewhat overshadowed by the energy of the other players) who crowns him.

Huntington is very popular with the women of court but, in an inexplicable twist, confesses that he’s frightened of women. This play on our expectations doesn’t last long though and soon Robin (to be) and Marion are an item.

All is interrupted as the King takes Huntington off to the crusades. Prince John takes over and starts to abuse the population causing Marion to go into hiding. She gets a message to Huntington who returns to her aid.

Now the film really picks up pace as Fairbanks is transformed from the loyal knight to the outlaw in green and the anticipated pieces fall into place. The arrows start flying as we’re introduced to the merry men including Little John as played by Alan Hale who was to reprise the role with Errol Flynn and again in the 50s. There’s Friar Tuck and Will Scarlett too and an enormous merry hide-out in Nottingham Forrest that Bruce Wayne would envy...

The High Sheriff of Nottingham (a cowardly William Lowery) is led a merry dance as the band rob from the rich and give to the poor, running rings around the local militia. But the Sheriff kidnaps Marion and captures Robin on his loan rescue mission. Will Robin’s men breach the walls of Nottingham Castle in time and just who is that mysterious knight with the black helmet?

It’s expertly directed with economy and zest by Dwan and is good fun throughout maintaining a slick pace that every blockbuster since has tried to emulate.

The cast is very strong especially Beery who almost steels the show with his strength and humour: you really believe he could be king. But, ultimately, it's Fairbanks’ show – a human dynamo who never stops holding your attention. He is incapable of a still moment, and literally bounds across the set, always in motion and looking for moves that reinforce the characterisation.

It's really no surprise he was the most popular action hero of the day but can you ever imagine a quiet Sunday afternoon at the Pickfair house, Mary doing the crossword and Douglas trimming the hedge?

After rapturous applause, John Scott called over to Melissa Fairbanks and asked her how she though it had gone. She was delighted and was sure grandpa was looking down and smiling. The audience certainly left happy, smiling themselves through the rain-sodden London streets on the way home.

Robin Hood is also available in a clean print, spruced up by Kino - the version I appropriated the above screen shots from: I heartily recommend that you go out and buy it! Forget Flynn, Cosner and Crowe... Douglas Fairbanks is Robin Hood (and Alan Hale is, almost literally, *always* Little John…)!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Handsome Lon Chaney… Tell it to the Marines (1926)

This is an unusual vehicle for Lon Chaney in that it allows him to play a sympathetic character with a straight face…his own.  In the process he shows what a skilled actor he was, moving those granite features with an unexpected deftness for those used to his more dramatic, made-up roles. And what a fascinating face it is…a likeable face, a funny face!

Tell it to the Marines was his most successful film for MGM and is a patriotic film extoling the virtues of steadfastness, honesty and true love.

Chaney maybe invents the tough drill sergeant role as Sergeant O'Hara – a man who seemingly gives no quarter and yet who secretly cares for all his greenhorns. Into his hands come the usual motley crew of raw recruits, each underestimating the task ahead. None are quite as couldn’t care less as “Skeet” Burns (William Haines) who see this is just a free ride to the horse races.

Haines plays really well against type by playing a (barely) lovable rogue who seems to have no respect for others (let alone authority) and to be driven purely by selfish motives.

Naturally enough, Skeet is singled out for straightening out early on by O’Hara who does his best in spite of Skeet’s incorrigibility.

Skeet very quickly spots Nurse Norma Dale (elegant Eleanor Boardman, who was a life-long time friend of Haines following their Goldwyn “New Faces”  selection back in 1921) and hits on her much to O’Hara’s dismay…seems like the there’s a beating heart underneath the rock hard exterior after all.

Skeet begins to romance Norma little suspecting that O’Hara is his competitor. When eventually the time comes to go the younger couple swear to be re-joined and it breaks O’Hara’s heart. There’s a wonderful scene in which the sergeant is talking to his bulldog about being the ugliest mug in the navy…he decides with a grin that maybe the dog just edges him. Chaney’s smile here is superb, such energy and so much conveyed through a simple act.

The unprecedented co-operation of the military means that there are some outstanding sequences of the men at sea, surrounded by American naval might as their battleships forge through the ocean and let lose their guns in a cloud of smoke with even the biggest ships recoiling from the force.

The men set off on their first posting to the Philippines. Little happens there besides continuous rain but one of the local women offers Skeet some welcome distraction. Unable to resist the lure of the candy store he goes with her only to think better of it after she scratches a flea or two on their date. This doesn’t go down well with her fellow islanders and an almighty scrap breaks out with the marines.

O’Hara comes to Skeet’s rescue but he barely appreciates it. Then word somehow gets back to Norma and Skeet is in no doubt that it is O’Hara who has ruined his chances only to improve his own…he begins to hate his Sergeant even though he has entirely miss-judged him.

The marines move onto China where they are reunited with the Nurse Norma but she wants nothing more to do with Skeet, even though in her eyes you can tell she love shim still. She talks with O’Hara who is man enough to tell her that she’s walking away form Skeet “just when he needs her most “ (if there was any doubt who the real hero of the film is…it is hereby removed!).

Will the two lovers discover the truth in time or will they be deprived forever by the local rebels who kidnap Norma and the rest of her contingent. Can the Marines come to the rescue and will our heroes finally find respect for each other?

The storyline is perhaps a bit deeper than some given the possibility that Chaney may end up with the girl. Even though Haines is handsome he’s certainly a rogue and needs to find his moral direction fast.

Directed by George W Hill, Tell it to the Marines is very well assembled, quick changes in pace and excellent composition. There is some superb camera mobility, including hand-held action during the fight on the island and also dolly shots tracking the actors as they march. There are also some stirring shots of the navy at sea – huge battleships rolling with the waves.

It’s a meaty role for William Haines as he gets to play the shallow raw recruit who’s only in it for himself. He falls for Eleanor Boardman’s nurse mainly as she’s the prettiest thing in sight and it’s only later that he learns how much he really meant it. An excellent performer, it’s no surprise he was so popular: he has an easy way and always seems to throw in the odd realistic gesture like…picking his nose!

Boardman does her usual top-notch job with not a lot to play with. It’s good to see her in a decent quality print (there follows the usual lamentation about the lack of proper DVD release for The Crowd…) and she is as ethereal as ever even if she never has to get out of second gear…you know she has the extras anyway!

But it’s Chaney’s film with his Pete Postlethwaite complexion, iron jaw and smiling eyes. I’ve heard that he gained such expressiveness as the son of deaf and mute parents. This may have been the case but he’s also emotionally intelligent and able to submerge himself completely in character. So much so that his character continues to surprise you throughout the film… he only reveals the disguised decent hearted softy when he wants… “He’s the hero!” exclaimed my wife with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for Ewan McGregor… and she’s right.

Married to the navy, loyal to all his charges, Chaney’s portrayal struck so true with the marines themselves that he became the first actor to be awarded an honorary membership in the Corps.

Tell it to the Marines is now available in an excellent print from the Warner’s Archives series either direct or from Amazon. It comes with the original score composed by Robert Israel that serves the action well if a little formally for an action-orientated, romantic comedy. A film with many moods but overwhelmingly good fun.