Saturday, October 12, 2019

Keno Bates, Liar (grand piano: Ilya Poletaev)

Keno Bates, Liar (US 1915). William S. Hart, Louise Glaum, Herschel Mayall. Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – Margaret Herrick Library, Los Angeles.

Keno Bates, Liar (US 1915). William S. Hart, Louise Glaum. Photo: Internet Movie Database.

Keno Bates, Liar (US 1915). Margaret Thompson, William S. Hart, Herschel Mayall. Photo: Internet Movie Database.

Keno Bates, Liar (US 1915).William S. Hart, Margaret Thompson. Foto di: Valerio Greco. Teatro Verdi, 12 Oct 2019. Source: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2019 / Flickr.

Keno Bates, Liar / reissue title: The Last Card.
US 1915
regia/dir: William S. Hart.
sogg/story, scen: J. G. Hawks, Thomas H. Ince.
photog: Robert Doeran.
asst dir: Cliff Smith.
cast: William S. Hart (Keno Bates), Herschel Mayall (“Wind River”), Margaret Thompson (Doris Maitland), Louise Glaum (Anita), Gordon Mullen (Jim Maitland).
prod: New York Motion Picture Co., supv: Thomas H. Ince.
dist: Mutual / Kay-Bee.
uscita/rel: 27.8.1915.
copia/copy: 35 mm, 1911 ft, 25′ (20 fps); did./titles: ENG.
fonte/source: Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
    William S. Hart.
    Grand piano: The 2019 Pordenone Masterclasses: Ilya Poletaev.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian by Underlight, 12 Oct 2019.

Diane Koszarski (GCM): "Keno Bates, Liar was the penultimate of the 17 two-reel dramas Hart directed and starred in after signing with Ince in September 1914. Like others at Inceville, he kept up the company’s vigorous production pace with the support of his boss’s cutting-edge production system, completing two new films every month or so thanks to the stable of reliable screenwriters and the detailed scenarios and continuity plots they prepared for him. Best of all, as he wrote in his autobiography, “The West was right there!” Each project, made in five or ten days for between one and two thousand dollars, went out to distributors polished by Ince’s decisive editing style. (Keno Bates, Liar was shot between May 6 and May 14, 1915, at a cost of $1,998.14.) Ince’s team of writers offered the bankable actor a practical formula he could transform into gold: one bold “Western” sequence to anchor and color classic conflicts drawn from the past half-century of melodrama. But these compact dramas would still appear fresh through new touches of characterization and dramatic pacing."

"The film opens with Hart as “Keno” Bates, the cool and courteous gambler made so popular in Bret Harte’s fiction. The actor/director shows his skill conjuring the Inceville ingredients. Landscape for action is distinctively western, wild and rugged, but for romance it appears pastoral and refreshing. Sets are carefully designed. The saloon here is an orderly business and the gambler’s cabin is neatly kept. Hart controls his own performance and that of his troupe with equal skill. The Anglos are straightforward, while Anita, the Mexican, is allowed to deliver flamboyant excess. Bates is a successful businessman, and (in a story trope rarely seen in Hart’s work) good friends with his Double Stamp Saloon partner, “Wind River,” nicely acted by Herschel Mayall, an Inceville regular usually cast as villain in the Hart pieces. Bates casually rejects the attentions of sexy saloon girl Anita, played by noted vamp Louise Glaum. Could they have once had a relationship? Wind River correctly predicts this volatile female will bring Bates trouble."

"Soon after, Bates and Wind River are the victims of a deadly serious holdup. In a town with no sheriff they joke first, then give chase on horseback across brushy hills and trails. After a shootout with the young robber Bates discovers on his dead body a locket and a letter, the fulcrum of the drama. A pretty blonde orphaned sister is coming West, looking to her brother for a home. The gambler, his partner, and their cronies in town vow to do “a whole lot o’ lyin’” to protect young Miss Doris from knowledge of her brother’s sordid life, and his death at Bates’s hand."

"After this rousing opening the drama settles into a plot centered on two women, guaranteeing the interest of male and female viewers alike. Keno Bates’s extreme chivalry, to the tune of ceding his well-built cabin, faro winnings, saddlehorse, even his gun belt, to the young lady, leads to romance – in his mind, at least. Some of Hart’s most tender, unaffected gestures of courtship, along an Edenic creek bed or at the cabin steps, leave Doris surprisingly neutral – what does a New England spinster feel about a saloon keeper, however gallant? When the unrequited Anita, inflamed by jealousy, spills the beans about Bates’s role in her brother‘s death, Doris is charged with feeling. How to confront this man? Her confusions are intercut with beautifully lit shots of Bates collecting creek-side flowers to bestow on his lady love. Dramatic tension mounts, and resolves in one stunning moment. Hart receives the blow with magnificent strength and no histrionics, departing with a little stagger. (A review in Moving Picture World reveals the next scene, missing from this reissue version: Anita, lurking outside the cabin, again declares her love, and Bates again rejects her.) Friend Wind River intervenes before the gravely wounded Hart can ride off, and appears at the happy finale to “chaperone” his pal, wounded but recovering with Doris as his nurse and fiancée.
" Diane Koszarski (GCM)

AA: Keno Bates (William S. Hart) is a liar who tells two lies to Doris Maitland (Margaret Thompson).
    That her brother Jim was a good man.
    And that Jim was killed in an accident (in reality Keno Bates killed him in self defense).
    When the jealous Anita (Louise Glaum) reveals the truth to Doris, Doris shoots Keno, almost killing him.
    Lying can be moral. Truth can be lethal. Because we only see a part of the big picture.

An effective drama of laconic power.
A short film of epic poetry and genuine feeling.

Visual quality of the print: good, doing justice to the rich and realistic density of the milieux.



"Jim Maitland (Gordon Mullen) loses his last cent gambling the Double Stamp saloon and gambling hall, and shortly after it closes, he robs the proprietors "Keno" Bates (William S. Hart) and "Wind River" (Herschel Mayall) are robbed, at gunpoint. After the surprise, they track Maitland down, and Keno shoots him dead on self defense. Keno goes through his belongings and finds a letter and a locket; the letter announces the arrival of the deceased's sister, and the locket has a cameo picture of Doris Maitland (Margaret Thompson). Thus, Keno tells Wind River they must do a heap of lying. Meeting the girl at the stagecoach's arrival, Keeno feels responsible for the innocent and attractive Ms. Maitland; he tells her a white lie, that her brother was a good man, "killed in a mine accident," who had left her a cabin and money – and Keno turns his own cabin over to Doris. Keno and Doris began to fall in love. Anita (Louise Glaum), a dance-hall girl, aggressively tries to seduce Keno. Keno repels her, and later, the dance-hall girl catches sight of her rival when Keno muses on the cameo. Anita decides to expose his lies to Doris in a private conversation at the cabin. First, Doris gets into a fight with the saloon girl but then Doris accepts the painful truth. Furious, Doris confronts Keno outdoors, and his admission of having killed her brother is followed by her sending a bullet into his body. Keno, disillusioned, wounded, staggers back to the Double Stamp, asking Wind River for his saddle bags so he can ride out. But not far from town, as he lays dying, Wind River tells Doris all the facts about her brother. They find Keno, and Doris nurses him back to health."


AA Facebook capsule:

Keno Bates, Liar is a compact drama of laconic power. He lies to her that her brother was a good man. He also lies to her that her brother was killed in an accident (but it was Keno Bates who shot him in self defense). Seen in a beautiful 35 mm MoMA print.

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