Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Women of All Nations

Women of All Nations. Victor McLaglen as Flagg and Greta Nissen as Elsa.

Women of All Nations. A Comedy Drama with the characters of Quirt and Flagg originally created by Laurence Stallings & Maxwell Anderson.
    Sempre rivali.
    Director: Raoul Walsh. Year: 1931. Country: USA.
    Sog.: basato sui personaggi di Maxwell Anderson, Laurence Stallings. Scen.: Barry Conners. F.: Lucien Andriot. M.: Jack Dennis. Scgf.: David Hall. Mus.: Carli Elinor. Int.: Victor McLaglen (capitano Jim Flagg), Edmund Lowe (sergente Harry Quirt), Greta Nissen (Elsa), El Brendel (Olsen), Fifi D’Orsay (Fifi), Marjorie White (Margie), Jesse De Vorska (Izzy Kaplan), Bela Lugosi (principe Hassan). Prod.: William Fox per Fox Film Corporation 35 mm. D.: 73’. Bn.
    Not released in Finland.
    Restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive.
    Print from UCLA Film & Television Archive.
    Courtesy of Park Circus.
    Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato (William Fox Presents: Rediscoveries from The Fox Film Corporation), 26 June 2018.

Ehsan Khoshbakht (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "During the closing years of the silent era, Walsh met with great success for his depiction of the rivalry between two U.S. Marine officers in What Price Glory? (1926). Nevertheless the director felt some dissatisfaction: in the absence of sound, the sharpness of the film’s dialogue was lost in the intertitles. In the early 1930s, Walsh returned to the same characters, Jim Flagg and Harry Quirt, first in The Cock-Eyed World (1929) and then Women of All Nations, by which time the focus had shifted from war and military life to sex and comedy – yet the two seem to be intertwined. In the latter film Walsh frames a WWI trench and a line of bare female legs with the same type of dazzling tracking shot. Both are associated with mobility too. As the Marines are sent on missions to different countries, where they encounter women, a Swedish dancer enjoys her own freedom of movement, with her own ‘weapons’ to help her."

"Unlike What Price Glory? Walsh was able not only to make the ludicrous conversations audible, but also enriched the soundtrack with the sounds of shelling, women giggling and mewing – Walshian sexual innuendo through sound."

"The film is almost bereft of plot, instead introducing a series of situations and gags, both comic and dramatic. A stunning battle sequence leads into slapstick, as the viewer is whisked around the world. The scenes are linked by intertitles, the first one of which is signed by Walsh himself as ‘narrator’. Throughout, a small number of ideas are masterfully exploited by Walsh to the point of absurdity."

"Audiences were far from enthusiastic however, perhaps tired of the Flagg / Quirt partnership, and the film lost $175,000. Surprisingly, Fox didn’t give up, making a fourth and final installment, Hot Pepper (1933), directed by John G. Blystone. This madcap, fast-moving film is a thoroughly enjoyable example of Walsh’s most lucid period of filmmaking – the work of a man who can turn even vulgar sex jokes into unassuming art." Ehsan Khoshbakht

AA:  The women of all nations are a harem for Flagg and Quirt.

For some patrons Women of All Nations was one of the favourite films at Il Cinema Ritrovato. For most it was the worst / one of the worst, me included.

Not without incidental pleasures, such as the character Big Olaf who throws Flagg, Quirt and Olsen clean through the door of Elsa's chamber which only Olaf has permission to enter. [The actor in the role of Olaf is identified in the end credits but not in any online source.]

And Bela Lugosi, charismatic, as Sheik Hassan whose harem also comes to include Elsa. He scares the three adventurers away with a threat of something unspeakable to be achieved with his sharp dagger if uninvited men are discovered.

And the whole preposterous episode in Göteborg / Gothenburg. Mostly our international travellers focus on visiting the red light districts of the world's ports, and the talented female cast including Greta Nissen, Fifi D'Orsay, Marjorie White, Marion Lessing, Ruth Warren, and Joyce Compton are reduced to playing prostitutes or something similar. That said, Walsh and Mizoguchi are the cinema's most sympathetic portrayers of the oldest profession.

I love What Price Glory? which balances the horror of war and the joy of life. When that electrifying balance is removed, a tired comedy formula emerges in the eternal navy world tour of Flagg and Quirt.

I have reservations even about A Girl in Every Port which is both fascinatingly embryonic for the oeuvre of Howard Hawks and frustratingly adolescent, a showcase of arrested development. The harem concept was close both to Walsh and Hawks. (Fazil is the story of an evolution from the harem to true love).

There is one case of true emotion in Women of All Nations: the story of the rookie marine Izzy Kaplan whom Flagg and Quirt swear to protect. Alas, he meets his fate in the earthquake of Nicaragua. His father is played by none other than Max Davidson.

A first rate print.

PS. 19 July 2018. Pamela Hutchinson reminds us of the cat in El Brendel's pants. Others focus on Victor McLaglen's meowing like a tomcat in heat.

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