Clara Bow

Parisian Love (1925)

Parisian Love 1925

Marie (Clara Bow) and her boyfriend Armand (Donald Keith) are both members of a gang of thieves operating in Paris. One night, the gang decides to break into the home of Pierre Marcel (Lou Tellegen), a famous scientist, while they believe he’s away. But it turns out Pierre is at home the night of the burglary and it all goes horribly wrong. The police show up and one of the gang members is shot and killed when Armand tries to protect Pierre from being killed. Unfortunately for Armand, he’s wounded during the fight and ends up with blood poisoning.

Grateful for his efforts to save his life, Pierre allows Armand to stay with him to recuperate. Pierre also recognizes Armand as a former student of his. Pierre really takes Armand under his wing and starts introducing him to respectable members of society and helps him get on the path toward putting his criminal past behind him. When Marie finds out about it, she’s extremely jealous, especially when she sees Armand with another woman Pierre has introduced him to.

Absolutely furious, Marie decides to get revenge by marrying Pierre and taking all of his money. She pretends to be another woman to get into Pierre’s home and her plan starts working out very well. He falls madly in love with Marie and it isn’t long before they’re engaged to be married. On their wedding night, she reveals the truth to Pierre while other members of her gang wait outside to shoot her for what they believe was turning against them. But the gang only manages to wound Marie and as she recovers, Pierre realizes how much she loves Armand and decides the best thing he can do is get a divorce so they can be together.

I really like Clara Bow, but haven’t seen many of her movies, so I had pretty high hopes for Parisian Love. Unfortunately, this was definitely not one of Bow’s better movies. The story wasn’t particularly interesting and the character didn’t have quite the same spark that I loved so much in It, Wings, and Call Her Savage. If you’ve never seen a Clara Bow movie before, do yourself a big favor and see one of those movies instead of Parisian Love; you’ll have a much better understanding of why she was such a big star. Pretty much the only noteworthy things I noticed in the movie were the allusions to Pierre having a crush on Armand. Even at 65 minutes, it still struggled to hold my interest for that time.

Call Her Savage (1932)

Call Her Savage PosterLike so many young women, Nasa (Clara Bow) loves to rebel against her father Pete Springer (Willard Robertson).  Or at least the he’s man she believes is her father.  Nasa’s real father is a Native American her mother Ruth (Estelle Taylor) was having an affair with until he was forced to marry another woman. Nasa is a very high-spirited and hot-tempered young woman, which drives her father crazy.  When he sends her off to a boarding school in Chicago, he hopes they will be able to get her to behave, but instead, she’s as wild as ever.

In a last ditch attempt to get Nasa to clean up her act, Pete tries to force her into marrying a man she doesn’t want to marry and plans to announce their engagement at a big party.  Nasa heads him off by inviting notorious playboy Larry Crosby (Monroe Owsley) to the party so she can have someone to cavort with.  When Larry’s girlfriend Sunny (Thelma Todd) shows up, she and Nasa get into a brawl.  And to top things off, Larry proposes to Nasa after the big fight and they get married right away.  That’s the last straw for Pete, who tells Nasa that he never wants to see her again.

Nasa and Larry’s marriage is extremely short lived, though.  After Nasa decides she’s done with him, she has a grand time living the high life on Larry’s dime.  But when she gets word that Larry is very sick, she goes to see him and Larry attacks her.  When she finds out the extent of Larry’s illness, she realizes she can’t count on him anymore.  And to make things worse, Nasa is expecting a child.  Her baby is born prematurely and she is left to care for him in a run-down boardinghouse.  When she needs medication for the baby, she resorts to selling herself to get the money.  But while she’s gone, there’s a fire in the building and her baby dies of smoke inhalation.

Even though Nasa has faced terrible tragedies, things start to turn around for her when she gets a visit from her old friend Moonglow (Gilbert Roland).  He’s come to tell her that her grandfather has died and left her $100,000.  She heads to New York, takes out an ad looking for an escort to accompany her, and  meets Jay Randall (Anthony Jowitt) when he responds to her ad.  Jay is the son of a millionaire, but keeps that a secret from Nasa, even though she figures it out for herself pretty quickly.  Jay loves Nasa, but their relationship ends after his father gets involved.  With Jay out of the picture, she gets word that her mother is dying and Nasa heads home to make peace with her past.

I have seen Lifetime movies that aren’t as overly melodramatic as Call Her Savage is.   Seriously, what doesn’t this movie have?  I think the only way this movie could have been any more dramatic is if they also made Nasa a drug addict.  Storywise, Call Her Savage is a bit disjointed.  There are times when it switches gears with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball.  Like after the scene when Nasa goes to visit Larry when he’s sick and he attacks her, then all of a sudden, Nasa is totally destitute and has a baby.  There’s not much of a transition there at all.  I also found the whole morality message about the sins of the father being passed on to his children to be really tacked on and forced.

By far, Call Her Savage‘s biggest redeeming quality is Clara Bow’s pure star quality.  She really saved this movie.  This was the second-to-last movie Clara Bow starred in and based on what I saw here, it’s really too bad she didn’t continue to make more movies.  Her voice was fine, her energy was terrific, and her acting was great.  This was the first time I saw Clara Bow in a movie that wasn’t a silent film and even though I thought she was great in silents, I actually liked her even more in this. Even if this is the only Clara Bow movie you’ve seen, you’ll have no problem understanding why she was such a big star.

What’s on TCM: November 2010

Site news time!  As you may or may not know, November is NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month.  And because I love a challenge, I’ve decided to take a shot at participating.  That’s right, I’m going to try to update the blog every single day in November!   To make things a little more interesting, I’ve given myself a theme to work with: pre-codes.  30 days, 30 pre-code classics!  Here’s hoping I can pull it off!  Now, onto the TCM schedule…

Wow!  This could quite possibly be one of my favorite months ever on TCM!  Fans of silent films, rejoice!  This month, TCM is starting its documentary series Moguls and Movie Stars.  A new episode premieres every Monday at 8:00 PM and is followed by a night of movies related to that night’s episode.  Every Wednesday night is also devoted to Moguls and Movie Stars with more related movies and an encore of that week’s episode.  This is particularly wonderful news for fans of silents because a few episodes of Moguls and Movie Stars are dedicated to the silent era, so they’ll be airing movies from people like Mary Pickford (who I always thought has been very underrepresented on TCM), Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Georges Melies, and D.W. Griffith.  In addition to that, Ava Gardner is the star of the month!  I dig Ava Gardner, so I’m going to be watching a whole lot of TCM this month.


Films Rediscovered

I don’t think there is any news that thrills classic film fans more than news that a movie that was thought to be lost has been found.  With the news that an astounding 75 lost silent films have been found in New Zealand, I’m sure many fans of silents are feeling like they just won the lottery.  It’s exciting enough when just one lost film is rediscovered, but to find 75 of them is truly incredible.  Among the most noteworthy finds are: Upstream, directed by John Ford; The Woman Hater, starring Pearl White; Won in a Cupboard, directed by legendary Mack Sennett star Mabel Normand; Mary of the Movies, which is now the oldest known surviving movie produced by Columbia; and Maytime, starring the ‘it’ girl herself, Clara Bow.

It is believed that about 80% of films from the 1890s-early 1930s are now lost for good.  In some cases, virtually nothing exists anymore from some of the biggest stars of the time.  Theda Bara starred in 40 films during her career, but only three and a half currently exist.  But luckily, the films of other major stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks fared much better and very little of their careers have been lost to the ages.

There are many reasons for how films wind up being lost.  In many cases, the films just weren’t well cared for.  In the early days of film, nobody was thinking that anybody would be interested in this stuff a century later so they thought nothing of throwing away unused footage or entire movies that no longer had any commercial value.  Sometimes films would be destroyed in order to recycle the silver in the film stock.  Nitrate film stock is extremely volatile and can easily catch on fire if it is improperly stored.  Fox lost all of their pre-1935 negatives due to a vault fire.  If they didn’t burst into flames, they’d often just decay and disintegrate into a pile of dust.  A lot of times, scenes would be cut after initial screenings to make it more marketable or due to censorship.  Most famously, much of the original cut of Metropolis was lost for decades before a complete print was discovered in Argentina in 2008.  And then there’s the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born.  That one had to be drastically cut down after its premiere and is currently available in a nearly complete restored version, but a complete print is believed to exist.  And then there’s the case of 1933’s Convention City.  The entire film was intentionally destroyed because it was way too pre-code to even be censored and re-released while the Production Code Administration was in charge.

Since I love the stories about how lost films (or lost scenes) surface, here are some of my favorite rediscovery stories: