For my first ever blog post(so exciting), I’d like to discuss this British Silent. I saw this for the first time last year, I was only sorry that I had never seen it sooner. One of the best ‘behind the scenes’ films ever made in my opinion. Funny, touching, dramatic and suspenseful.
This is one of the best films about making films that I’ve ever seen. There is a sense of realism about it, it’s fascinating watching how a silent film studio operated; and seeing what went on off camera.
It must have been interesting and maybe even difficult viewing for Silent era audiences watching this; as they were shown how the magic of film is achieved, and that co-stars may hate one another, yet seem the best of friends on screen. This film reveals to us that film is all about illusion and yet despite knowing it’s all illusion audiences believe and enjoy what they see anyway. I would have loved to have been in the audience when this premiered.
The opening romantic scene focusing on a woman in a blossom tree kissing a cowboy, highlights perfectly films ability to make us believe what we see on screen. What begins as a beautiful romantic scene descends into chaos when a dove bites the woman, she screams and the camera pulls back revealing she is actually an actress, the tree is a set, and that the scene we’ve just witnessed was for a film. We then pull back and are shown the soundstages of the studio, we see other actors, crewmembers walking around and other films being shot on adjacent stages.
The film starts off being very funny, and then it turns very dark and suspenseful. The ending is realistic and depressing, it shows that fame is fleeting and that once great stars can become yesterdays news.
Mae Feather(Annette Benson)and Julian Gordon(Brian Aherne)are married, and are two of the most famous British stars. Mae is a beautiful and self centred woman. Julian loves her despite her flaws. Mae begins an affair with comedy actor Andy Wilkes(Donald Calthrop). When Julian discovers the affair Mae becomes so enraged that she decides to kill Julian, her plan has unexpected and disastrous results.
Benson is superb as the actress who destroys her only chance of happiness for a moment of passion. Calthrop is marvellous playing two different characters, the Chaplin like comic character Wilkes is famous for, and as the elegant man Wilkes is off screen. Brian Aherne has the hardest role I think; he has to play Julian as being slightly dull, but also has to ensure he has our sympathy throughout the film; he more than succeeds. An actress called Chili Bouchier (who I’m unfamiliar with) makes quite an impression as a glamorous co-star of Wilkes.
I would love to see all three of the films featured within the film, Wilkes comedy in particular looks great fun. Altman’s bouncy music fits so well with the film and is very catchy. The films title is cleverly revealed to have two meanings.
My favourite scenes are the following. May and Julian walking onto Wilkes comedy film set and watching him perform. The beach sequence. The opening in the blossom tree. The ending. Julian watching the film at the cinema, and seeing the reaction of the boys behind him.
This has immense rewatch value, and is a must see for Silent fans. If you have never seen a Silent flick before, I think this would be a good one to start with. This film has something for everyone, and does such a good job of showing us how the magic of the big screen is achieved.