Monday, June 25, 2018

Caravan (MoMA restoration)


Caravan. Phillips Holmes as Lieutenant von Tokay in the middle.

Karavaani / Karavanen / Carovane.
    Director: Erik Charell. Year: 1934. Country: USA.
    Sog.: dal racconto Gypsy Melody di Melchior Lengyel. Scen.: Samson Raphaelson, Robert Liebmann, Hans Kraly. F.: Ernest Palmer, Theodor Sparkuhl. M.: Robert Bischoff. Scgf.: William Darling, Ernst Stern. Mus.: Werner Richard Heymann. Int.: Charles Boyer (Lazi), Loretta Young (contessa Wilma), Jean Parker (Timka), Phillips Holmes (Tenente von Tokay), Louise Fazenda (Bessie Opitz), Eugene Pallette (il capo degli zingari), C. Aubrey Smith (barone von Tokay). Prod.: Robert Kane per Fox Film Corporation. 35 mm. D.: 103’. Bn.
    Print from MoMA The Museum of Modern Art.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato (William Fox Presents: Rediscoveries from The Fox Film Corporation), 25 June 2018.

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Fox’s German connection began when William Fox invited F. W. Murnau to create the towering Sunrise in 1927 and continued through an association with the producer Erich Pommer – who founded Fox Europa after the Nazis chased him out of Ufa – and extended to a number of contracts with leading figures of the Weimar cinema, many of whom were able to emigrate to Hollywood as a result. Foremost among them was Erik Charell, a brilliant theatrical director who had been an assistant to Max Reinhardt and has directed one of the finest of the Weimar musicals, the bittersweet operetta Der Kongress tantz (1931). In Hollywood, Fox Film gave Charell all the resources of the struggling studio, as well as allowing him to bring over composer Werner Richard Heymann, screenwriter Robert Liebmann and production designer Ernst Stern. With a screenplay by two Lubitsch associates, Samson Raphelson and Hans Kraly, the result was Caravan, the greatest Weimar musical not made in Germany. Droll, sophisticated, bittersweet, this tale of a Hungarian countess (Loretta Young) who impulsively marries a gypsy violinist (Charles Boyer, who also starred in a simultaneously made French-language version of the film) is full of pointed observations about class and race in Old Europe. And yet American audiences rejected it out of hand, perhaps because the experienced Charell, Jewish and gay, could not bring himself to provide a traditional happy ending that would allow the minority outcast to live in eternal harmony with the aristocratic insider. Seen today, Caravan is not without its flaws of taste and scale, but it is a both a bitterly ironic and emotionally commanding film, as well as one of Hollywood’s earliest coded protests against Hitler. Restored from the only known nitrate print, held in MoMA’s collection." (Dave Kehr)

AA: A lavish musical spectacle set in an operetta Hungary of 1811. A rebellious story where the young heiress Countess Wilma (Loretta Young) falls in love with the gypsy violinist Lazi (Charles Boyer) and turns her castle into a playground for a gypsy wedding. It takes the Austro-Hungarian army to chase the gypsy camp away from the castle, ruined in riotous partying.

Wilma's intended groom, Lieutenant von Tokay (Phillips Holmes) arrives too late, stone drunk, and makes passes at Wilma and proposes a one night stand without realizing whom he accosting. (Touches of The Merry Widow).

This is a catastrophe musical, and Erik Charell and his brilliant team have perfect control over the magnificent crowd scenes, both organized and revolutionary ones. Loretta Young and Charles Boyer are sparkling, and Phillips Holmes does comedy well. But there is a little too much of the good thing. Relentless merriment can turn exhausting. Parts are better than the whole.

A valuable restoration from elements that seem to have been challenging at times.

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