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The Patsy (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Wonderfully delightful and highly entertaining!  The biggest hit of Marion Davies career that continues to entertain generations over 80-years later!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1928, 2004 Turner Entertainment Co. Package Design © 2009 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Patsy

YEAR OF FILM: 1928

DURATION: 77 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: B&W, Dolby Digital Stereo

COMPANY: Warner Archive

RELEASE DATE: August 18, 2009

Directed by King Vidor

Story (Play) by Barry Conners

Written by Agnes Christine Jonston

Titles by Ralph Spence

Produced by Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst, King Vidor

Music by Vivek Maddala

Cinematography by John F. Seitz

Edited by Hugh Wynn

Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons

Costume Design by Gilbert Clark

Starring:

Marion Davies as Patricia Harrington

Orville Caldwell as Tony Anderson

Marie Dressler as Ma Harrington

Lawrence Gray as Billy Caldwell

Dell Anderson as Pa Harrington

Jane Winton as Grace Harrington

Pat Harrington (Marian Davies) is the patsy in her family, the forgotten good girl who watches her flirtatious sister collect all the fellas. But when sis two-times her current beau, the dreamboat Pat secretly loves, Pat seizes her chance. She knows that to get a man, a girl needs to get some personality. So she gets three, mimicking Mae Murray, Lillian Gish and Pola Negri in a daffy plot to make the dreamboat jealous. Davies radiates comic charm, highlighted by her dead-on impersonations of the three cinema divas, in this audience pleaser directed by King Vidor (The Crowd) and costarring Marie Dressler (Min and Bill) as Pat’s battle-ax of a mother. Gloriously fun and frothy, The Patsy was the biggest hit of Davies’ career.

A Cinderella silent film that has stood the test of time and entertained many generations, Marion Davies 1928 film, “The Patsy” is magnificent!

Directed by King Vidor, “The Patsy” was a wonderful vehicle for Davies to showcase her comedic skills but also why she was one of the best actresses of her time.  The film would also be the necessary vehicle for actress Marie Dressler to make her comeback (and in 1931 and 1932, Dressler would win back-to-back Oscars for the “Best Actress in a Leading Role”).

But for Marion Davies, “The Patsy” is considered her best film that she has starred in.

And for many so long, many silent film fans have waited for this film to be released on DVD after being teased with a beautiful print shown on the cable network, Turner Classic Movies (TCM).  Unfortunately, Warner Bros. is no longer releasing classics  DVD’s via retail but with the Warner Archive, you can purchase a DVD-R on demand ala wbshop.com (or through Amazon and other stores that do carry the Warner Archive titles).

“The Patsy” is a film that revolves around the Harrington family.  Grace Harrington (played by Jane Winton) is the eldest daughter that Ma Harrington  (played by Marie Dressler) cares for and spoils.  Meanwhile, Patricia Harrington (played by Marion Davies) is the youngest daughter who is constantly picked on by her mother and sister.  Her father Pa Harrington (played by Dell Henderson) doesn’t like how Pat is always teased and picked on or taken advantage of (hence the title of the movie “The Patsy” and also a play on her name).

Ma Harrington feels that Pat will be the person who will cause her health problems even though Pat is just upset that she never gets anything good and it’s always her sister Grace.

For Pat, she envies Grace because she is dating a man named Tony Anderson (played by Orville Caldwell) and Pat can only wish that she was with him.

As Tony comes to visit, he reminds everyone about the party at the Yacht Club.  As the women get ready, Grace takes Pat’s new jacket and when Grace tries to make a fuss about it, once again Grace wins and Ma Harrington supports Grace instead of Pat.  When Tony comes to pick Grace up, Ma Harrington leaves with Tony and Grace, leaving Pat with her father in a car with no adequate cover and thus her hair can easily get messed up.

While at the club, Grace just watches Tony and can’t keep her eyes off him but Ma Harrington is on to her and does not want Pat ruining anything between Grace and Tony.

Meanwhile, the rich Billy Caldwell (played by Lawrence Gray) has arrived and when he sees Grace, he falls head over heels for her.  He pretends he’s a waiter and tries to get close to Grace and succeeds.  When Ma Harrington finds out that Billy is interested in Grace, she tries to be all chummy with him.  While Billy moves in and asks Grace for a dance, Tony can’t believe that Billy has taken Grace from him.  As for Pat, she tries to console him and so while Billy and Grace are dancing, Grace asks Tony to dance with her but for Tony, it’s because he needs to find out what Grace and Tony are doing instead of paying attention to Grace. In fact, Tony has no idea that Grace has fallen for him.

When Billy takes Grace on his motorboat, Tony can’t believe what has happened and so Pat and Tony try to take a row boat to follow.  With Grace and Tony together in the boat, she tells him that she likes a guy who doesn’t know she’s there.  Tony tries to give her advice and that she needs personality to get the guy she wants.

So, Pat goes on a quest to get closer to Tony with the advice he gives her on how to attract a guy.    Not knowing that she is doing all she can to make him attracted to her.  But will it work?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Patsy” is presented in 4:3 black and white.  While the print is pretty good for a film that is over 80-years-old, as one can expect from a silent film, there are scratches that can be seen on the print.  But fortunately there is no nitrate decomposition and the film looks great considering its age.  Blacks are nice and deep, contrast is well-done.  No blurriness or ghosting.    Silent film fans or fans of the talent in the film should enjoy the picture quality of this release.

As for audio, the audio is presented in Dolby Digital and the music is actually fantastic for this film.  The music for this new release is composed by Vivek Maddala who did a wonderful job on “The Ace of Hearts” from the “Lon Chaney Collection” and the Greta Garbo silent film “The Mysterious Lady”.

Intertitles are easy to read and are not the original intertitles but are quite clear for this DVD release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Unfortunately, most Warner Archive titles do not come with any special features.

I absolutely adore Marion Davies!

“The Patsy” is perhaps the precursor to the screwball comedy and Marion Davies does a wonderful job with her comedy in this film.  From playing the spunky younger sister who is starry eyed over her sister’s boyfriend Tony, to the comedic side of the actress as she tries to showcase her newfound “personality” in which Ma and Grace Harrington think she is going insane.  But possibly the most memorable scenes is when she does her imitation of Lillian Gish, Mae Murray and Pola Negri.  According to the New York Times review of the film back in 1928, Davies impersonation infuriated Murray and Negri but delighted Gish.

But Davies was absolutely ravishing in this role.  What man can turn down as she looks at the man she loves with her alluring eyes.  Needless to say, this is a film that Davies works it, knows how to use the camera to showcase her comedy skills but also to display her emotions and passion.

The performances by Davies is stellar but it helps to have a magnificent performance from Marie Dressler and Del Henderson.  As for Jane Winton (who plays Grace), many people may recognize her for a part she did a year earlier for Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” in which she played “The Manicure Girl”.  Needless to say, the movie did enhance the careers of the main characters of the film, with Marie Dressler benefiting from her role and jumpstarting her career to win two consecutive Oscars in 1931 and 1932.

As for King Vidor, the filmmaker does a wonderful job in creating the Yacht Club dance and captures a moment of time of the urban haute bourgeoisie.   The film is wonderfully directed and at 77-minutes long, the timing was right and for the most part, it’s an easily accessible silent film for those wanting a romantic comedy.

Which now brings us to the DVD.  As mentioned, this is part of the Warner Archive and not a retail DVD.  This is part of Warner Bros. DVD on demand and the fact is that one will not be seeing many of these classic films on DVD or possibly Blu-ray.  Classics may not be a huge moneymaker with today’s audiences but for those who do care about silent films and classics that have not been released in the US, Warner Archive was the way to go.

I’m going to admit that I was on the fence for purchasing this DVD-R release.  Mainly because it’s DVD-R, there is no significant packaging, no special features.  So, aside from taping it on TCM, if you want the DVD, this is the only way to go.

Everything worked perfectly on my DVD player, and I tested on my Mac and everything played fine.  Of course, if there was one thing that is hard for me to justify is paying the $19.99 retail price for a DVD-R with no special features.  But fortunately, the Warner Archive titles often go on sale and you can get them for under $10 during the wbshop.com sales (granted, you may have to buy 5-10 titles).

But for my first Warner Archive purchase, I was definitely pleased and can’t wait to purchase more.  The only thing I recommend for those (like myself) who take a long time to watch a DVD is to test these DVD-R’s on your player  immediately when you received them and to make sure they are working correctly, and so if you need to return it, you can.  From what I hear, WB has a good return policy.  So, that’s good to know.

Overall, “The Patsy” is a fantastic silent film.  It may not have the bells and whistles that I would have liked to see but from here on in when it comes to classics, our only way to obtain these titles are through Warner Archive.  But if you are looking for a silent film worth purchasing in the archive or a silent romcom, “The Patsy” is highly recommended!


Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies – The Milestone Collection (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Marion Davies was the first screwball comedienne and a wonderful talent from 1917-1937 despite the ugly urban legend that people believed because of the film “Citizen Kane” and her relationship to William Randolph Hearst.  “Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies” gives us in-depth insight to her illustrious career but also takes on the rumors and the scandals that persisted during her lifetime.  As an excellent bonus on this DVD release is her 1927 silent film “Quality Street”.  Overall, if you are a fan of Marion Davies, this DVD release is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2001 Timeline Films Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies – The Milestone Collection

DURATION: Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies  (60 Minutes), Quality STreet (111 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Full Frame (1:33:1)/Color for documentary, B&W, Silent film with piano score

RATED: UNRATED

COMPANY: Timeline Films/Milestone Film & Video/Image Entertainment

Released Dated: 2001

Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies

Directed by Hugh Munro Neely

Written by Elaina Archer, Hugho Munro Neely, John J. Flynn

Executive Producer: Tom Brown, Hugh M. Hefner

Producer: Elaina Archer, Keith Lawrence, Hugh Munro Neely, John J. Flynn

Co-Producer: Andie Hicks

Music by Nigel Holton

Cinematography by Harry Dawson

Edited by Elaina Archer, Hugh Munro Neely

Quality Street

Directed by Sidney Franklin

Based on the play by J.M. Barrie

Written by Hanns Kraly, Albert Lewin

Producer: Marion Davies, William Randolph Heart

Cinematoraphy by Hendrik Sartov

Edited by Ben Lewis

Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons, Allen Ruoff

Costume Design by Rene Hubert

Titles by Marian Ainslee and Ruth Cummings

Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies

Narrated by Charlize Theron

Jeanine Basinger

Cari Beauchamp

Robert Board

Kevin Brownlow

Charles Champlin

Mary Collins

Virginia Madsen

Belinda Vidor Holiday

Frederick Lawrence Guiles

Constance Moore

Suzanne Vidor Parry

Carl Roup

George Sidney

Leah Sullivan

Ruth Warrick

Quality Street

Marion Davies as Phoebe Throssel

Conrad Nagel as Doctor Valentine Brown

Helen Jerome Eddy as Susan Throssel

Flora Finch as Mary Willoughby

Margaret Seddon as Nancy Willoughby

Marcelle Corday as Henrietta Turnbull

Kate Price as Patty

Blonde, beautiful and talented, Marion Davies was the first and funniest screwball comedienne. As star of two of the best comedies ever made, Show People and The Patsy, she combined zany slapstick and exuberant mimicry. Glamorous, witty and kind, both on screen and off, Davies was also famous for her 35-year-long love affair with William Randolph Hearst.

Unfortunately, Davies has too often been remembered for a film in which she never appeared: Citizen Kane. Orson Welles may have based his great film on the life of Hearst, but Davies was never like the character of Susan Alexander.

Loving and insightful, and Narrated by Charlize Theron, Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies combines archival film clips, interviews and rare home movies to explore her life and work. The Brooklyn-born Davies was dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies when she first met Hearst, who went on to build her a movie studio and a castle — the legendary estate in San Simeon where she reigned over the elite of Hollywood. A wonderful, moving tribute to this Hollywood legend, this is a documentary to own and cherish. A bonus feature on this video is Davies’ brilliant performance in the rarely seen classic Quality Street!

Marion Davies, one of the most beautiful and talented actresses during the silent film era and the beginning years of the talkies.  A woman who captured the hearts of many and was also known for being the mistress of one of the richest men of America, publishing and movie mogul William Randolph Hearst.

Her career and her life with W.R. Hearst is celebrated and featured in the one hour documentary “Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies”.  A fantastic documentary on the life of Marion Davies, how she met Hearst, her career in silent films and then how she felt about the talkies and also covering her life after film, the Ince scandal, affair rumors, her niece Patricia Lake (who was actually the child of both Hearst and Davies), the death of Hearst and the death of Davies.

A fascinating documentary with so much detail about her life, the “Captured on Film” also goes into one of the most unfortunate things that has ever happened to an actress, specifically Marion Davies.

Known as the first screwball comedienne, Marion Davies has had an illustrious career from 1917 through 1937 which was well known to many at that time…that was until the the Orson Welles 1941 film “Citizen Kane” was released.

“Citizen Kane”, considered to be the greatest film ever made, is a film which many people believe to be an autobiographical film in which the character Charles Foster Kane is based on the mogul William Randolph Hearst and the ditsy, no-talent character Susan Alexander Kane was based on Marion Davies.

Unfortunately, since the film and as the Silent Film became forgotten, many people believed that Marion Davies was the same as Susan Alexander Kane.  An actress who was with a rich publishing mogul and a person without talent.  Although “Citizen Kane” to this day is considered by many film institutes as the greatest film ever made, unfortunately, the myth of Marion Davies is like the character of Susan Alexander Kane is absolutely false but for many it became fact.  Marion Davies was nothing like the character of Susan Alexander Kane.  Not only did Davies have business smarts, she was one of the most talented actresses of that time.  She also was an inspiration to many, as she donated money to help the needy, to help friends and it was well-known that she had a stuttering problem but for her live action films, she showed many that can she overcome the problem.

Orson Welles commented, “We had somebody very different in the place of Marion Davies. And it seemed to me to be something of a dirty trick, and does still strike me as being something of a dirty trick, what we did to her. And I anticipated the trouble from Hearst for that reason.” (from “The Battle Over Citizen Kane” PBS documentary)

But at what cost has “Citizen Kane” hurt Marion Davies reputation overtime?  One thing that we do know is that Davies never watched the film but she did write, “I had no anger toward Orson Welles. After all, everybody is created to do their very best, and he probably thought that was his way to make money. Who was I to say I didn’t like the way he did his picture? I was not built that way. I liked to keep the waters calm. ”

Fortunately, with this documentary, people will get to know who Marion Davies is and how she was unlike the character featured in “Citizen Kane”.

Also, included with this DVD release is a Marion Davies MGM 1927 silent film titled “Qualty Street”, a film based on the 1901 play by J.M. Barrie.  Directed by Sidney Franklin and featuring a piano score by Philip Carli, “Quality Street” takes place in England during the Napoleonic Wars and revolves around Phoebe Throssel (played by Marion Davies).  As many of the young and older women are smitten by Dr. Valentine Brown (played by Conrad Nagel), Brown has his eyes set only on the young and beautiful Phoebe.

All seems to go quite well between the two, but while walking home, Brown sees a rally in which the the military is asking for men to join and fight for their country against the impending march of Napoleon’s troops to Britain.  Phoebe who thinks that Dr. Brown would be proposing is shocked when she finds out that Brown is going to join the military to fight for the country.

Fast forward several years later and Phoebe and her sister Susan are now teachers but during those years, the young and beautiful Phoebe looks much different.  She no longer shows the enthusiasm that she once had, wearing eye glasses and covering her whole head with a bonnet, she is much different than before.  And in one instance at school, she finds out that one of the young students drew her and called her an old maid.

Meanwhile, Dr. Brown returns from war, with a few battle scars but what has kept him going is his love for Phoebe and can’t wait to propose to her.  When Brown arrives back home, he and Phoebe finally meet but things are not the same as before.  Brown is shocked by how Phoebe looks and Phoebe can tell that with the years that have passed, not only have they grown older but she can tell Dr. Brown does not see her in the same way anymore.

But the reaction of Dr. Brown towards her and the incident at the school and a student looking at her as an “old maid” has hurt her.  But now she has had enough.  She wants to know how much Dr. Brown loves her but the only way is to transform into the vamp “Livvy”, the niece of Phoebe.  Phoebe tells her sister Susan that if Brown really loves her and not her looks, he will avoid Livvy but if he becomes smitten with her, she does not want anything to do with him.

As Dr. Brown returns back to Phoebe’s home to apologize, instead of meeting Phoebe, he comes across the sexy Livvy.  Will Dr. Brown be allured by the charm of the sexy Lilli? Or will his heart and love for Phoebe remain?

VIDEO:

For “Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies”, the documentary features very good photos as we get modern interview footage with those who knew Marion Davies and also the archived footage featured in the documentary are good as well.

As for “Quality Street”, the film is presented in black and white (1:33:1) and the picture quality of the film varies.  While the film is watchable and most of the scenes are good, you will notice that there is degradation from the original film source and see some warping on the sides of the film.  Fortunately, the main part of the film is not damaged but towards the end of “Quality Street”, there is about a minute or so, where the degradation takes over the whole screen.  It is watchable but that is probably the only time where the film is at its worst.  Fortunately, it’s for a short time only.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies – The Milestone Collection” is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo for the documentary “Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies”.  The dialogue is clear.  As for “Quality Street”, the silent film features a piano score by Philip Carli.  Quality Street has English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies – The Milestone Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Stills Gallery – Featuring an autoplay of movie still images and photos featuring Marion Davies and WR Hearst.

I absolutely love Marion Davies.  When it come to beautiful silent film stars, next to Louise Brooks, she is one of my favorites.  I suppose one of the reasons why I enjoy her work is that, while Mary Pickford films usually are serious films, Marion Davies films are the screwball comedies and films where she just has fun. She’s one of those actresses where your eyes are glued to the film as she is definitely ravishing but her acting and mannerisms, are just fantastic.

But it is a shame when you follow her career, despite having a flourishing career especially during the transition from silents to talkies, she has had such a raw deal despite all that she has accomplished and contributed.  From the Ince scandal, her affair with WR Hearst and then “Citizen Kane”, you just wish that people can know the true Marion Davies than what we see of Susan Alexander Kane who is nothing like Davies.

Of all people, “Citizen Kane” director/actor Orson Welles was even asked to contribute a foreword to Marion Davies oral history “The Times We Had” in which Welles went on to say about Davies, “Marion Davies was one of the most delightfully accomplished comediennes in the whole history of the screen. She would have been a star if Hearst had never happened. She was also a delightful and very considerable person. The proof is in this book, and I commend it to you.”

Despite how anyone may have felt about Hearst, she was dedicated to him, maybe not loyal but she was with him and both shared the brunt of the media. But despite her personal life with Hearst, Davies is one of the most talented comediennes in the history of screen and with the release of “Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies”, I am so grateful for this documentary and grateful to Milestone Film & Video for including one of her silent films on this DVD.

“Quality Street” may not be one of Marion Davies classic films but it’s one of the films that showcases her charm and how she knows how to use her mannerisms to showcase the character’s personality but also showcases her strength in production (which she did a lot for WR Hearst films).  Both Davies and Conrad Nagel have very good chemistry onscreen and for the most part, the film is a dramatic comedy that doesn’t get too serious or convoluted.  I do like the set design and costume design as well as the early cinematography for the film.  I’ve read for the dolly shots, cinematographer Hendrik Sartov used a hand-held camera and wore roller skates.  If that is the case, that would be very impressive, especially knowing how bulky camera equipment was during that time.   “Quality Street” may not be among the top or most recognized Marion Davies films but the film does showcase humor and charm and for the most part, I enjoyed the film and that it was included alongside with the documentary as an excellent bonus.

Nearly a decade since the release of this DVD, fortunately we are now starting to see some of her classic films released (from Warner Archive) and aired on TCM.  As a new generation of viewers discover silent film, I’m sure they will discover Marion Davies and hopefully now, a renewed interest and respect for one of the best comedic actresses of all time thanks to this documentary and DVD release.

If you have discovered Marion Davies or a big fan of the comedienne, “Captured on Film – The True Story of Marion Davies” is definitely recommended!

Classic Hollywood – Marion Davies (1933?)

April 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

One of my favorite actresses from the golden era, the beautiful Marion Davies and I think the only photo in my collection of her.  Not sure what year or what this photo was used for. Portrait or movie promotional possibly from 1933 for the film “Going Hollywood”.

If anyone knows which film this picture was from, please let me know.

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