Thursday, October 10, 2019

Film concert What Happened to Jones? (1926) score written and conducted by Juri Dal Dan, performed by Zerorchestra

What Happened to Jones? (US 1926, D: William A. Seiter). Reginald Denny (Tom Jones), Marion [Marian] Nixon (Lucille Bigbee). Photo: Kimberly Pucci Collection.

What Happened to Jones? Reginald Denny (Tom Jones), Emily Fitzroy (Mrs. Goodly), Otis Harlan (Ebenezer Goodly). Photo: Kimberly Pucci Collection.

Kimberly Pucci, granddaugher of Reginald Denny, introducing the screening, hosted by Jay Weissberg. Foto di Valerio Greco. Teatro Verdi, 10 Oct 2019. Source: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2019 / Flickr.

Zerorchestra. Foto di Valerio Greco. Teatro Verdi, 10 Oct 2019. Source: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2019 / Flickr.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
Reginald Denny.
Grand piano for the shorts: John Sweeney.
Introduce: Kimberly Pucci.
Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian by Underlight, 10 Oct 2019.
What Happened to Jones? score written and conducted by Juri Dal Dan
Performed live by: Zerorchestra at the strength of seven musicians.



Early Cinema: Flipbooks

Le Duel (FR 1898) 53’’(121 fotogrammi/frames, 12 fps): dubitativamente attribuito a / tentatively attributed to Méliès, forse la prima versione di / possible first version of Star-Film cat. no. 148 (1898), Assaut d’escrime, école de Joinville. Non risultano conservate copie su pellicola / No film copies known to survive.
    AA: Possible first version of Assaut d'escrime (École de Joinville) [Fencing at the Joinville School], Star Film n:o 148 (1898), missing believed lost. The only info in the L'Œuvre de Georges Méliès catalogue: the length is 20 metres.

Le Bâton (FR 1898) 53’’ (121 fotogrammi/frames, 12 fps): dubitativamente attribuito a / tentatively attributed to Méliès. Ex-cat.
    AA: A baton fight like kendo. Elegant.


Photo not from the film. Universal city ad (1915). Photo: Carl Laemmle – The Please click to enlarge!
City of Stars: A Reporter's Visit to the Universal Studios (US 1925, D: H. Bruce Humberstone). Foto di: Valerio Greco. Teatro Verdi, 10 Oct 2019. Source: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2019 / Flickr.

The City of Stars: A Reporter's Visit to the Universal Studios.
US 1925.
regia/dir, sogg./story, scen: H. Bruce Humberstone.
photog: William Fildew.
mont/ed: Byron Robinson.
pres: Carl Laemmle.
prod, supv, dist: Universal Pictures Corp.
uscita/rel: 3.1924.
copia/copy: DCP, 22’18’’; did./titles: ENG.
fonte/source: Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio-Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA.

Dimitrios Latsis (GCM): "A decade after the inauguration of Universal City, the company produced a studio tour offering the opportunity to witness the evolution of the studio in its first decade. The City of Stars is structured as a “coming attractions” promo within the fictional framework of an Eastern editor (vaudeville actor Broderick O’Farrell, who can be seen in Skinner’s Dress Suit) arriving in Los Angeles to meet with Universal’s advertising manager. The scenic resources of the studio are showcased throughout, with a “See America First” wagon visible in one scene, and a scattering of panoramic shots of Universal City and the Universal zoo."

"Director H. Bruce “Lucky” Humberstone was only 21 when Universal first hired him in 1923, in their publicity department. As historian William K. Everson observed in his note about the film for New York’s Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society in May 1959, this two-reeler “propagates the theory that at Universal all stars, directors, and executives were just one big happy happy family, under the benign leadership of Carl Laemmle, with the [sole] aim of bestowing outstanding entertainment of unsurpassed quality on the moviegoers of the world.” Uncle Carl’s paternalism and running of the studio as a metaphorical (and at times literal) family is, of course, well known, as is his self-promotion via biographies (The Life and Adventures of Carl Laemmle, 1931, by John Drinkwater) and his frequent appearances in company newsreels like the Universal Animated Weekly. Here he is beaming down from his omnipresent portrait in studio offices where O’Farrell asks to meet with an advertising manager, and later encounters Norman Kerry and Jean Hersholt. Hayden Stevenson (who can be seen in The Leather Pushers) offers to show him around Universal City, where he’s almost knocked over by the Universal Ranch Riders before encountering Harry Pollard first discussing a scene with Gertrude Olmstead for the Reginald Denny starrer California Straight Ahead and then with Marian Nixon for the Denny film I’ll Show You the Town."

"O’Farrell and Stevenson chance upon stars major and minor: Bill Desmond in his cowboy outfit speeds them by car towards the studio’s “Back Ranch,” bypassing half-built sets (of which we see a great deal throughout the film) and almost crashing into Reginald Denny himself. At the ranch area, they greet Lola Todd and Jack Hoxie, rehearsing a scene for The Fighting Peacemaker, and glimpse cowgirl Josie Sedgwick in a rodeo before heading towards Larry Trimble directing My Old Dutch. A gorilla (of course a man in a gorilla suit) escapes from the Universal zoo and chases them onto William Seiter’s set for The Teaser, where they’re introduced to Laura La Plante, Pat O’Malley, and Margaret Quimby, as well as Alexander Carr, seemingly confused with his brother Nat Carr, as an intertitle mistakenly credits him with appearing in The Cohens and Kellys (then titled Two Blocks Away)."

"As Stevenson continues to show O’Farrell around, scene snippets are edited in as if part of the tour: The Home Maker, Peacock Feathers (believed lost), Lorraine of the Lions (working title The Nature Girl), The Phantom of the Opera, My Old Dutch, The Storm Breaker, The Goose Woman, and Siege (believed lost). There’s also a brief shot of Hoot Gibson rehearsing The Man in the Saddle, before the visitor and his guide return to the offices, where they meet boxing manager Jack Kearns, recently signed by Universal to do promotional work, together with his star pugilist Mickey Walker. Finally, O’Farrell is greeted by studio general manager Raymond L. Schrock. Even though the rapid-fire editing makes it seem as if these locations were next to one another, this is in fact a mixture of studio-backlot and on-location footage, some shot 30 miles away, as Everson points out. The films referenced here were also a mix of already completed and in-production titles." Dimitrios Latsis (GCM)

AA: A fascinating "Universal Studio Tour" anno 1926, meeting stars including Harry Pollard, Gertrude Olmstead, Marian Nixon, William Desmond, Reginald Denny, Lola Todd, Jack Hoxie, Larry Trimble, William Setier, Laura La Plante, Pat O'Malley, Margaret Quimby, Alexander Carr, Alice Joyce, Clive Brook, Cullen Landis, Patsy Ruth Miller, Mary Philbin, Hoot Gibson, May McAvoy, Louise Dresser in Goose Woman and Virginia Valli. Digital transfer from 16 mm.

What Happened to Jones?
US 1926
regia/dir: William A. Seiter.
scen: Melville W. Brown, dalla pièce di/based on the play by George Broadhurst (1897, New York).
photog: Arthur Todd.
mont/ed: John Rawlins.
scg/des: Leo E. Kuter.
asst dir: Nate Watt.
cast: Reginald Denny (Tom Jones), Marion [Marian] Nixon (Lucille Bigbee), Otis Harlan (Ebenezer Goodly), Zazu [ZaSu] Pitts (Hilda), Emily Fitzroy (Mrs. Goodly), Margaret Quimby (Marjorie Goodly), Melbourne MacDowell (Mr. Bigbee), Francis [Frances] Raymond (Mrs. Bigbee), Ben Hendricks [Jr.] (Richard Heatherly), Nina Romano (Alice Starlight), William Austin (Henry Fuller), John Elliott (il vescovo/The Bishop), Edward Cecil (Smith), Broderick O’Farrell (Rector).
prod: Carl Laemmle, Universal-Jewel.
dist: Universal.
uscita/rel: 31.1.1926 (copyright 9.12.1925).
Not released in Finland.
copia/copy: DCP, 70’46”, col. (orig. 35 mm, 6726 ft, imbibito/tinted); did./titles: ENG.
fonte/source: Universal Studios.

Kimberly Pucci (GCM): "George Broadhurst’s 1897 stage farce What Happened to Jones was first filmed in 1915 by World and again by Famous Players-Lasky in 1920 before Universal acquired the property for Denny in 1925. Reg was pleased to be working steadily with easy-going Bill Seiter, now reteamed for their third film together. Seiter concurred with Reg’s approach to comedy in that he felt slapstick didn’t fit the British stage actor’s personality, so he didn’t push the hokum. Although the studio executives wanted Reg to play the Jones character with over-the-top broad comedy, the actor and director agreed they were going to do it their way and have little clowning. The story was silly enough already, and Reg played it naturally, where it was believable. As can clearly be seen on screen, the crew had a blast making this hilarious comedy."

"Things kick off to a brisk start when Tom Jones (Denny) is stampeded into a poker party on the night before his wedding to Lucille Bigbee (Marian Nixon, in the third of six films the two stars made together). The gathering is raided by the police, and the poker players battle the cops and escape. Jones and Ebenezer Goodly (Otis Harlan, in the third of eight films with Denny) go down a fire escape and enter the open window of a “Reducing Parlor” where many scantily clad stout women are roaming the halls. The fugitives dodge from one section to another, finally hiding in an “electric light bath cabinet,” their protruding heads covered with towels. They pass for women as the police search the place, but when an attendant turns on more heat, Jones disrobes inside the cabinet to avoid suffocation. Jones and Goodly escape naked to the dressing rooms, where they don women’s clothing and exit the parlor. It’s one comical scenario after another on the city streets until Jones, eventually disguised as a bishop, reaches the church where he is to marry his waiting fiancée."

"What Happened to Jones was hailed as a “Laugh-Riot” on release, with some claiming it was one of the funniest pictures ever seen on Broadway. Los Angeles Times columnist Grace Kingsley enthused, “The greatest comedy success of the current season is Reginald Denny in What Happened to Jones. Guffaws, not giggles, accompany its showing this week… If you don’t laugh until you cry…you will be different from the gang including myself which yesterday simply howled with laughter all through the comedy’s unrolling. If other comedians don’t watch out, Denny is going to tear the laurels from all their brows. His comedy gifts are being cultivated. But especially he has a tremendously likable personality. That wide crooked grin of his is a fortune in itself.” The Kansas City Times reported that the film “indicates why Universal Pictures Corporation is holding the comedy star against the attractive offers of Paramount and other rival producers. Denny has created an unusual following and each succeeding picture seems to be an improvement over its predecessor.”

"Glowing reviews must have helped soothe frazzled studio nerves from the week prior to release, when Reg took pals Ben Hendricks Jr. and “Hub” Lloyd out on his yacht the S.S. Barbarene for a day of marlin fishing from San Diego. They were headed toward Ensenada when a violent storm blew in, taking the craft out to sea. Reg, Hendricks, and Lloyd feared the yacht would capsize in the twenty-foot waves and they worked hard to gain whatever control they could. When Reg and Hendricks didn’t show up on set the following day, the studio was less concerned about What Happened to Jones, and more with what happened to Reg. Carl Laemmle hired two pilots to fly search planes from Santa Monica’s Clover Field over the Pacific, and the U.S. Coast Guard sent out military boats from San Diego in an ocean rescue effort to find Reg and his lost companions. After three days without communication, Reg finally navigated his way to San Diego harbor and called Laemmle to let everyone know they were alive. The studio wasn’t happy about their star’s reckless behavior; however, record-breaking audiences for the newest Denny release must have been sweet recompense.
" Kimberly Pucci (GCM)

AA: The third film adaptation of George Broadhurst's popular comedy is brisk, funny and well paced.

It starts on the eve of the wedding. The groom, instead of having a good night's rest, is cajoled to a game of cards. While fleeing from the cops Tom (Reginald Denny) and his pal Ebenezer (Otis Harlan) hide in what turns out to be a ladies' bath parlour. They emerge in women's clothes, and in order to camouflage one more time Tom dresses as a bishop. His own wedding is cancelled, but in his bishop's dress his responsibility is to wed his bride Lucille (Marian Nixon) to his rival. In front of him Lucille states: "No, I don't".

Reginald Denny is excellent, but somehow for me he is "a man without qualities". Of the memorable supporting roles I'd single out Emily Fitzrow as Ms. Goodly.

Marian Nixon was born Marja Nissinen in Wisconsin to a Finnish family. Her most important role was in Raymond Griffith's Hands Up! (one of the greatest silent comedies), and she also starred in Zane Grey westerns (The Last of the Duanes, Riders of the Purple Sage) and John Ford films (Pilgrimage, Doctor Bull). Reginald Denny and Marian Nixon are an attractive couple; their tenderness feels genuine. Marian Nixon later married this film's director William A. Seiter, their marriage lasted from 1934 to his death in 1964, and they had three children.

The warmly exhilarating score spiked with jazz was written and conducted by Juri Dal Dan and performed by Zerorchestra. It was an evening of satisfying entertainment.

The visual quality was mostly high in a Universal DCP transferred from a 35 mm MoMA duplicate negative. There were passages of heavy tinting, and I preferred the straight black and white passages.


AA Facebook capsule:

The main show was the film concert What Happened to Jones? starring Reginald Denny and presented by his granddaughter Kimberly Pucci. Juri Dal Dan's sparkling score was played by Zerorchestra. The leading lady Marian Nixon (born Marja Nissinen in Wisconsin to a Finnish family) later married the film's director William A. Seiter.

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