Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Phil attends THE HITCHCOCK 9: Day Three-June 16, 2013

Greetings everybody and welcome to the third and final day of the HITCHCOCK 9 film event at the majestic Castro Theatre in lovely San Francisco! I saw another four films on Sunday so let the good times roll!!

Lillian Hall-Davis and Jameson Thomas in THE FARMER'S WIFE.
Film number one was Hitchcock's sixth silent film THE FARMER'S WIFE (1928), which was one of the funniest films this weekend! Tibby, the wife of Samuel Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) dies, and shortly afterwards his daughter marries and leaves home, leaving him on his own with his two servants. His wife had told him that he should remarry after her death, so he pursues some local spinsters who were at his daughter's wedding after he and his housekeeper Minta (Lillian Hall-Davis from THE RING) make out a list of possibles. Needless to say, the possibles provide many hilarious scenarios! However, in the end, Samuel finds the love of his life, and it was right in front of him the whole time (in case you can't figure it out, it's Minta).

Once again the Master of Suspense shows us all that he defiantly had the chops to make romantic comedies. Also look for supporting actor Gordon Harker as the handyman in the film. Here's another fun film fact: Harker also appeared as the father in CHAMPAGNE and Jack's trainer in THE RING. Yup, it looked like Alfred had his own stock company!

Accompanying the film was the one-man-band himself Stephen Horne. I think he played another four to five instruments again. I know one was the grand piano. I think he played the accordion again. Maybe a flute too. Probably. I lost track folks.

Isabel Jeans (L) and Robin Irvine (R) in EASY VIRTUE.
The second film of the day was EASY VIRTUE (1928), the seventh silent film Hitchcock made. The heroine Larita (Isabel Jeans from DOWNHILL) is married to a drunken brute. After he catches her almost being seduced by the artist who has been painting her picture, he brings suit for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Since she is now a disgraced woman of "easy virtue", Larita leaves for the French Riviera, where she meets and marries a rich younger man, John Whittaker (Robin Irvine also from DOWNHILL). She does not tell him about her past, and they return to England to meet his family. His mother strongly disapproves of her, suspecting Larita of immorality. Her past comes to light and she decides to allow John to divorce her so he can marry Sarah, a local girl whom his mother had in mind as a suitable match.

Both this film and the last one showcase once again that obvious word called misogyny. In the FARMER'S WIFE, the misogyny was played for laughs and silliness and absurdity. However here, it's just blatant and kinda ugly. Everything that Larita has to endure is because the society of that time has declared her unfit and she's just treated so cruelly. By the end of the film, you really sympathized with her. You feel sorry for her because she didn't do anything wrong really. She's just a victim of the times. Fun fact: the film is loosely based on the play Easy Virtue by Noël Coward.

Returning once again to the grand piano was the incredible Judith Rosenberg! One of the pianist that plays at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and over at the Pacific Film Archives in Berkley, she was just amazing! After this weekend, I sincerely hope that the SF Silent Film Organization asks her to return again in July!

Miles Mander (L) gets friendly with a native in THE PLEASURE GARDEN.
The third film screened on Sunday was Alfred Hitchcock's very first film! OK, it's his first completed film (his first film NUMBER 13 was never finished). THE PLEASURE GARDEN (1925) is about two chorus girls Patsy Brand (Virginia Valli) and Jill Cheyne (Carmelita Geraghty) that work at the Pleasure Garden Theatre in London and their troubled relationships. Jill's fiance Hugh (John Stuart) arrives with a colleague named Levet (Miles Mander). Soon he and Patsy become very close while Jill is being pursued by a number of rich men, particularly a Prince Ivan after becoming famous in the show. Hugh is sent to Africa by his company and Levet soon follows, but not before marrying Jill, which leads to their material problems. Jill believes in her husband, but once in Africa, Levet becomes involved with one of the locals from the nearby village. When Hugh becomes sick, Jill rushes out to Africa to save him and to find out what happened to her beloved husband.

On his first outing as a director, Hitchcock was already showing his genius behind the camera. Using simple but effective set ups, suspense, comedy, and nice twist at the end, this was one helluva debut! Here's another fun film fact: The film was shot in 1925 and shown to the British press in March 1926 but not officially released in the UK until 1927.

Back on the grand piano was the one-man-band himself Stephen Horne. Look, he played everything again during the film. I'll just leave it at that. The man is a musical genius!!

The fourth and final film of the day, and the closing night film of the festival was Hitchcock's greatest silent film ever: THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG (1927). A number of fair-haired young ladies have been murdered on successive Tuesday nights in London, and the police basically have no clue as to the killer's identity. The only clue they have is that the killer (calling himself The Avenger) leaves a triangular note at the scene of his crimes. On the heels of the sixth murder, a stranger (Ivor Novello from DOWNHILL) comes seeking a room at the lodging house of an elderly couple. They're put off because he's dressed up like The Avenger. Then he's taking down all the pictures of fair-haired girls in his room, and sneaking out for a half hour on the next Tuesday night, returning just after a fresh murder had been committed down the street. The couple worries about their daughter Daisy (June Tripp but credited only as June), who has taken a definite shine to the strange young man, much to the chagrin of her traditional suitor, Police Detective Joe Chandler (Malcolm Keen from THE MANXMAN), who just so happens to assigned to The Avenger case. Determined to keep Daisy away from possible danger, her parents nevertheless manage to let her go out with the lodger the next Tuesday night, and this serves as the setup for the culminating scenes wherein Detective Chandler accuses the lodger of being the infamous Avenger.

The movie would introduce many themes that would run through much of Hitchcock’s later work: the innocent man on the run, hunted down by a self-righteous society, and a fetishistic sexuality. The film was based on a novel of the same name by Marie Belloc Lowndes, about the Jack The Ripper murders, and on the play Who Is He?, a comic stage adaptation of the novel by the playwright Horace Annesley Vachell that Hitchcock saw in 1915. While Hitchcock had made two previous films, in later years the director would refer to THE LODGER as the first true "Hitchcock film". After seeing the film again, it's hard not to argue with this statement!

And there you have it folks! What an amazing time I had!! And now I can't wait for July 18-21 for the SF Silent Film Festival!! Tickets for this event are now on sale so buy them before they sell out! To purchase tickets, and to learn more about the SF Silent Film Festival, and how to become a member, visit their website at http://silentfilm.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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