Monday, June 25, 2012

Wild Girl [2012 restoration]

US © 1932 Fox Film Corporation. D: Raoul Walsh. Italian title: Ragazza selvaggia. Story: dal racconto Salomy Jane’s Kiss di Bret Harte e dal dramma Salomy Jane di Paul Armstrong. SC: Doris Anderson, Edwin Justus Mayer. DP: Norbert Brodine. ED: Jack Murray. AD: Joseph C. Wright. M: Louis De Francesco. Loc: Sequoia National Park. C: Charles Farrell (Billy), Joan Bennett (Salomy Jane), Ralph Bellamy (Jack Marbury), Eugene Pallette (Yuba Bill), Irving Pichel (Rufe Waters), Minna Gombell (Millie), Willard Robertson (Red Pete), Sarah Padden (Lize), Morgan Wallace (Baldwin), James Durkin (Madison Clay). 35 mm. 80’. B&w. From: MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art. Monday 25 July 2012, Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti. Introduced by Dave Kehr.

Restored in 2012 from a preservation negative made from a nitrate print in 1973 for picture, and a new scan of the sound track.

Dave Kehr: "Walsh’s only Western between The Big Trail (1930) and Dark Command (1940) is a significant rediscovery, an affectionate parody of the silent westerns Walsh himself made as a young director at Mutual (all of which have been lost) that evolves into a lyrical romance filmed with tenderness and sincerity. Based on an often filmed 1907 stage play, Salomy Jane (a fine 1914 version, directed by Lucius Henderson and William Nigh, was included in the most recent DVD collection from the National Film Preservation Foundation, The West: 1898-1938), the film begins with the characters introducing themselves to the audience as if they were stock figures in a commedia dell’arte play – Joan Bennett as the tomboy heroine, Salomy Jane; Charles Farrell as the handsome, silent stranger in town; Ralph Bellamy as the morally ambiguous gambler. Filming among the giant redwoods and vertiginous perspectives of the Sequoia National Park in central California, Walsh constructs a West very unlike the familiar desert landscapes – a lush, fertile country, as seemingly crowded with people as the New York City of Me and My Gal. As in The Yellow Ticket,Walsh continues to experiment with the expressive possibilities compositions in depth – rather than cutting away to a reaction shot to underline an emotion, he will instead shift focus to an actor in the foreground – creating some saloon sequences that seem almost three-dimensional in their careful arrangement of action in space, and some views of the mountain valley as dazzling in their vertical composition as were the horizontal images of the widescreen Big Trail. Walsh would return to similar territory for his 1941 High Sierra." Dave Kehr

AA: The first public screening of the brand new print of the great MoMA restoration. Dave Kehr hits the nail on the head when he comments on the commedia dell'arte quality of the introduction. This is an old yarn based on worn stereotypes, yet the ensemble comes alive in Raoul Walsh's direction. Walsh was inspired by the chance to shoot on location, in this movie among the giant trees in Sequoia National Park. I happened to see the earlier film adaptation, Salomy Jane, last year in Pordenone, and it isn't bad, either, but the Walsh version is on a different level thanks to his strong feeling for the ensemble and his sense of humour. Joan Bennett is an excellent Walshian woman in Wild Girl and Me and My Gal. Like in Distant Drums screened this morning the protagonists face grave injustice but finally hold no grudge. In this story, Billy (Charles Farrell) is an avenger who murders Baldwin, the man who ruined his sister. Baldwin had become a pillar of the society, and Billy now becomes an outlaw. Because Salomy Jane, too, has been exposed to Baldwin's attentions she can therefore understand Billy. In the finale they ride across the county line. "Say man, what's your name?" While the print looks mostly brilliant, somewhere along the line there may have been two sources, one that is excellent and another more duped (including the beginning).

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