Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Drews 1

Boobley's Baby with Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Drew (Sidney Drew, Lucille McVey). Photo: Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. Click to enlarge.
With e-subtitles in Italian (and for The Master Painter in English, too), grand piano: Philip C. Carli (not Antonio Coppola) at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 4 Oct 2014

Steve Massa (Catalogue): "The witty and sophisticated comedies of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew were an alternative to the rough and ready slapstick of Keystone and L-KO shorts. A light comedian from the stage, Sidney Drew entered films in 1911, first working for Kalem. He embraced the early medium much more than the rest of his illustrious theatrical family, becoming an innovative writer and director."

"The short When Two Hearts Are One (1911) was based on the vaudeville sketch that Sidney and his first wife Gladys Rankin had toured with for eight years. Rankin was the daughter of stage star McKee Rankin, and sister of Phyllis Rankin (married to actor Harry Davenport) and Doris Rankin (the first wife of Sidney’s nephew, Lionel Barrymore). Gladys wrote several plays under the name George Cameron, including Billy, also known as Billy’s Tombstones, a popular vehicle for Sidney. The pair joined the Vitagraph Studio in 1913, but Mrs. Drew died in January of 1914. At Vitagraph Drew was first part of the comic ensemble in shorts such as The Feudists (1913) and When Women Go on the Warpath (1913), and even played in dramas like The Master Painter (1913). He soon began to find his own voice, embarking on a series of domestic comedies for Vitagraph that included Jerry’s Mother-in-Law (1914), Pickles, Art and Sauerkraut (1914), and A Horseshoe for Luck (1914), in which he was paired with screen spouses on the order of Clara Kimball Young, Louise Beaudet, and Kate Price, as well as directing and co-starring in the clever feature A Florida Enchantment (1914). Sidney’s life and career took a new direction at age 50, when he met the young actress Lucille McVey. Working at Vitagraph under the name Jane Morrow, she had previously toured the world for six years presenting recitations on the concert stage."

"After marrying in July of 1914, by the end of that year they launched a series which chronicled the misadventures of an average married couple, who became known as “Henry and Polly.” Although they wrote and directed their films together, in interviews Drew gave his wife credit for the tone of their material: “I was practically born in the theatre and the theatre has been my world, but Mrs. Drew was born in the middle west and she knew the world of millions of American men and women to whom the little domestic incidents – such as getting cigar ashes on the carpet – are important.”"

"From this angle came wonderful shorts such as Boobley’s Baby (1915), A Case of Eugenics (1915), and The Professional Patient (1917). A huge success, the Drews moved on from Vitagraph to Metro, and then finally to the V.B.K. Film Corp., with distribution through Paramount. Sidney Drew’s health collapsed after the death of his son in World War I, and he died at the peak of the couple’s fame in 1919. Mrs. Drew soldiered on as a single, and became one of the few women to write and direct comedy films. At first she fulfilled their V.B.K. contract with shorts like Bunkered (1919), and then adapted and directed the “After Thirty” stories of Julian Street for a series of Pathé two-reelers that included The Charming Mrs. Chase (1920) and The Emotional Miss Vaughn (1920). The last film she directed, before her premature death from cancer in 1925, was the Vitagraph feature Cousin Kate (1921), with Alice Joyce playing the title role; the original play had starred Ethel Barrymore." – Steve Massa

WHEN TWO HEARTS ARE ONE (Kalem – US 1911) D: Sidney Olcott; based on the stage sketch by Kenneth Lee; C: Sidney Drew, Alice Joyce, George Melford; rel: 6.9.1911; 1 rl.; 35 mm, 712 ft, 11' (18 fps); titles: ENG; print source: BFI National Archive, London. - AA: The honeymoon woe for Pup the pet dog, not allowed on the train, in the hotel... Coarse comedy. Early cinema style with long takes and long shots. A print with a duped quality.

THE MASTER PAINTER (Een vervallen grootheid) (Vitagraph – US 1913) D: L. Rogers Lytton; story: Russell E. Smith; C: Sidney Drew, Courtney Foote, Rosemary Theby; rel: 16.7.1913; 1 rl.; 35 mm, 977 ft, 14' (18 fps); main title, titles: DUT; print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam. - AA: Much better. There is a resemblance in the story to Vingarne / Mikael in that the old master is failing and the young painter is getting superior, falling in love with the young woman, here the old master's niece. At night the young man secretly improves the old master's work. "Now I've become the apprentice". Beautiful cinematography. Long takes, also medium shots. Beautiful sepia toning. From a print worn with dignity.

THE FEUDISTS (Vitagraph – US 1913) D: Wilfred North; story: James Oliver Curwood; C: John Bunny, Sidney Drew, Flora Finch, Josie Sadler, Lillian Walker, Wally Van, Paul Kelly, Kenneth Casey; rel: 23.8.1913; 2 rls.; 35 mm, 1296 ft, 19' (18 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. - AA: The feudists = the neighbours. I was thinking about Norman McLaren and also Max Davidson (Pass the Gravy). There is trouble with hen, calamity with seeds of plants unique in America, and mayhem with little children at their pranks. It all ends with reconciliation. The comedy is on the clumsy side. The source is largely horribly disfigured with water or nitrate damage.

BOOBLEY’S BABY (Vitagraph – US 1915) D: Sidney Drew; story: Paul West; C: Sidney Drew, Mrs. Sidney Drew [= Lucille McVey], Eddie Dunn; rel: 26.4.1915; 1 rl.; 35 mm, 1,000 ft, ca. 15' (18 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. - AA: Sidney commuting to his office on a train notices that those with babys always get a seat, so he buys a life size doll. Lucille at the office who kind of likes him is horrified by his callous way with the little one. There is an initial shock at Sidney's home, as well. And a prank by the co-workers who replace the doll with a real baby when Lucille is about to verify the case. Anyway, a year later: "sleep no more": Sidney and Lucille do have a real baby. Ok comedy. The source is partly so devastatingly damaged that there are stretches that are like abstract expressionist art.

A CASE OF EUGENICS (Vitagraph – US 1915) D: Sidney Drew; story: Templar Saxe; C: Sidney Drew, Mrs. Sidney Drew, Bobby Connelly; rel: 29.10.1915; 1 rl.; 35 mm, 745 ft, 11' (18 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. - AA: The story of a terrible boy child, in the tradition of the Willy comedies at Éclair, and Dennis the Menace. He is not their child, he is just on loan. The case gets so desperate that Sidney loses his mental balance, and, supported by his doctor, becomes a baby, himself. Lucille now is in a crossfire of two terrible babies, one little, one her husband. Mediocre comedy. There is a fatal disaster in the source towards the end, the image disappearing.

HER ANNIVERSARIES (Metro Pictures – US 1917) D., story: Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Drew; C: Sidney Drew, Mrs. Sidney Drew; rel: 4.6.1917; 1 rl.; 35 mm, 905 ft, ca. 13' (18 fps); titles: ENG; print source: Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA. - AA: Sidney is the impossible husband who always forgets the anniversaries, and Lucille is an anniversary maniac who compiles a complete list of them all. Her birthday: everybody remembers but Sidney. Finally Sidney mistakes the wedding anniversary with Washington's birthday. There are funny moments in this one. A high contrast print.

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