The Watch List For 4/16/13
RED DUST (1932) --- The jungle-set torrid one said to have run at smokers back in the day, and a longest awaited of precode signatures to be writ on DVD, Warner Archive the deliverer with best-ever quality a result of what I understand was extensive patch-up. How spoiled we are today ... a blurry TV transmission of Red Dust would once have been a thrill, but no more. Now it's pristine off camera elements or nothing. My question: Was Red Dust ever code-cut? The only reissue I'm specifically aware of was in 1963 as part of a larger Metro bring-back of oldies, but there's a still I found with a 1954 date. Could Red Dust have lost footage after 1932 circulation? What's here looks complete, as much so as a 16mm print among my collecting first in 1973 ... that's how long RD has been a favorite.
Surely it's a best of Gable-Harlow teamings,
Mary Astor lived long and talked some about Red Dust. Gene Raymond was venerable too --- did he share anecdotes? Dialogue is tart and spat out by Red's cast. I always note how Gable pronounces "room" as "rum." Then there's age-old debate between Roquefort and Gorgonzola (as in cheese) --- I've tried neither, so which is better? Admirable stretch of jungle was on Metro's backlot, and it rained much of the time. Hallowed ground this would become for future Tarzans. Red Dust must have been a sloppy shoot. Astor said she and Gable literally gave off steam when they kissed.
THE SHOW (1922) --- The whirlwind that was Larry Semon made some of the fanciest comedies of his day, surpassing even Chaplin at times for money spent and spectacular effect. Here was where he went CC one better for staging a night at The Show, Semon adding a wild chase for a finish aboard his era's time-honored runaway train. Were Semon comedies overloaded? Larry would be first to say, well, duh. His whole idea was to give value for tickets and then some. Few came out of a Semon show wishing he'd done more. Gagman and directing assist Norman Taurog knew comedy like pianists know scales, and hit few wrong notes over years majordomo'ing Semon, followed by work at developing Lloyd Hamilton. From these to lush featuring at Metro and eventual helm of Elvis and Dr. Goldfoot is proof we've neglected this artist as grievously as front-of-camera Larry, both deserving of lengthy profile if not whole books (best Semon coverage derives from a Classic Images article by Richard M. Roberts).
The Show tenders two Larrys, plus his dream's heroic alter-ego that figures into aforementioned train rescue. Complicated enough? Gags Semon staged involved the customary risk of necks, some so violent you wonder if blood was drawn. Larry wore clown white and pants hitched up his chest, love interest for him, at least here, being quite out of the question. Was this the corner Semon boxed himself into? Comedians with feature hope needed at least chance of getting the girl, something funny face Larry was hard put aspiring to. Any approach to normalcy is thwarted by Semon's anything for a laugh. Would Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd assist their leading lady with makeup, then eat her lipstick and powder puff? Even expectation of the unexpected doesn't prepare us for a rooster that consumes nitro-glycerin, then explodes. Semon's comedies were so well made, so energetic, as to be hard not to like, so it's nice finding one, as here in Kino's DVD Oliver Hardy Collection (he's the heavy), of such fine quality.