Monday morning kicked off with another from Dave Kehr’s “Universal” strand and Edward L. Cahn’s, LAUGHTER IN HELL (1933). This proved to be yet another fine discovery and considering the themes of adultery, racism, murder and some quite brutal scenes of a group of black prisoners being hung – all quite hard-hitting and gruelling for a film from 1933. The film ended somewhat abruptly and Dave Kehr told me afterwards that he believed there was a reel missing, which would clearly explain things.Dave also went on to say that this film all but ended Cahn’s career because of the subject matter and it’s unfavourable reception on release.
Next up was KING OF JAZZ (1930) introduced by Dave Kehr and Universal Pictures, Janice Simpson. The film was screened here in a brand new restoration, hot off a successful run of screenings at MOMA in New York. The film is in two strip Technicolor so there is a lot of red and green present in the image, that aside, and with a number of stills used for missing footage, it was a fine restoration. For me, that is as far as the superlatives extend as I found the film a mishmash of so many confusing styles; animation, short comic sketches, dance sequences, music from around the world and anything and everything but, to do with jazz.
In the afternoon I went along to view the Techincolor Reference Collection Show which was a selection of clips from Techinicolor films presented by members of the Academy Film Archive.The brief clips ranged from Ford’s THE QUIET MAN, Dwan’s SILVER LODE, Sirk’s MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS and BATTLE HYMN showcasing the exquisite cinematography of Russell Metty to Hitchcock’s TO CATCH A THIEF and Hawks RIO BRAVO. The programme used only films from the 1950’s and these were ‘reference’ reels that would have previously been consulted to make sure the colour palette of the new print matched the look of the original release.
Final film of the day, and a firm favourite with me, was Jaques Becker’s RENDEZ-VOUS DE JUILLET (1949). A film to my mind that would not look out of place had it been made almost 20 years later by a director from the “Nouvelle Vague”. The film also features an incredible jazz soundtrack. Definitely one not to miss.
My personal love for early French Cinema was fulfilled once again for this early morning screening of Marcel Carne’s LES PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946) where I was joined by Kevin Brownlow. The film features some breathtaking cinematography by Philippe Agostini, particularly in the closing scenes of the film at the train yard where his use of light and shadow are unprecedented. The film is based on a ballet that Jacques Prevert (it’s his screenplay) had just written and the film uses the original music that was composed for that, by Joseph Kosma, to great effect. According to the programme notes the film was originally due to star both Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich, for whom Prevert had specifically written the film.
Second film of the day was from the Universal strand, John M. Stahl’s 1933 film ONLY YESTERDAY. Dave Kehr should be congratulated for unearthing these films from the depths of the Universal vaults and giving them a new lease of life, because on the whole there have been some real finds. This one was no exception; a real tearjerker of a melodrama played out with the beautiful Margaret Sullavan and John Boles. Sullavan has a one night stand with Boles just before he heads off to fight in WW1. She has a child, but when he returns he doesn’t remember her and marries another woman. She never tells him about the child but never stops loving him, whilst he becomes somewhat of a playboy. Another very racy subject for 1933! This film also suffers from a rather abrupt ending, but don’t let that put you off seeing it.
Shamefully the next film I saw is something I’d always put off seeing having only seen a couple of clips of it, and that is SINGIN IN THE RAIN (1952). I’m not the world’s biggest fan of musicals but having said that I do have a soft spot for MEET ME IN ST LOUIS. I have to admit that this was a revelation for me and I loved every toe-tapping minute of it. The film was screened here in the Technicolor strand and was a personal print from Martin Scorsese’s private collection.
Final film of the day for me was Tay Garnett’s sleazy 1930 film, HER MAN. It’s the kind of film that you come out of the cinema feeling cheap and dirty! I can’t imagine for one second there were many films like this made, if any, in 1930 and the fight scene in the bar near the end has to be seen to be believed. Garnett’s direction was far ahead of it’s time as was the way his cameraman and editor both helped shape the film with their own innovative techniques. This was screened in a new restoration by Grover Crisp’s team at Sony Pictures and once again we have Dave Kehr to thank for alerting Sony to its presence in their archives.