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Monday, August 07, 2017

When Hearst-hood Was In Power

Knighthood Flowers On Undercrank Blu-Ray

Cinemas as schoolroom has been tradition since movies started. It stood as bulwark against those who'd suppress filmgoing, being Hollywood's argument that yes, we can educate as well as entertain. How much of history would a public know but for screens explaining it? A lot of viewers shun period subjects. Exhibition was always wary of costumes, oft-putting stars in modern dress for ads where product was past set. Go back far as the Tudors and risk Merry Olde empty seats, warned management. Seekers after prestige still reached for the ring however, outlay greater where vanished cultures were recreated. Griffith was noted for doing it far back as the teens, first with Biograph shorts, then with feature epics heavy as text issued by schools. To rival DWG came others, none more ambitious than W.R. Hearst and Cosmopolitan arm that molded When Knighthood Was In Flower, a tycoon's pageant to celebrate Marion Davies and courtly ways modernly unseen outside baronial space like Hearst owned San Simeon, furnishing of which could decorate Knighthood and a dozen other historicals, given the old man's inclination to share his wealth.

Hearst was generous where it came to extol of Davies. Was ever so much lavished by a man to deify his mistress? Again, probably not in a 20th century, though there was plenty of example from distant past. Hadn't Caesar gone daffy over Cleopatra?, and what of the king who was doing swell, sang Elvis, till he started messing with that evil Jezebel? Again it's movies and music that teach us this, and so Knighthood came of noble lineage, being more instance of love determining history, which I'd acknowledge it did to at least part-degree in real life. Dates and kings and countries go down dry without romance to juice them, and there's why dream weaving is essential to make us sit still for sift through sands of time. When Knighthood Was In Flower has Davies as feisty sis to corpulent King Henry VIII, him wanting to marry her off to wizened peer of another realm, despite her having flipped for a jouster that unseats a rival and would-be Davies suitor in opening scenes. Story and conflict thus unfold in quick-time, being sword stuff, carriage getaways, humor here and there, a brisker ride that I expected from blinkered scribes who said for years that Knighthood was stiff ordeal (bet few if any of them even saw it).

Now we can all enjoy When Knighthood Was In Flower, thanks to Blu-Ray revive by Undercrank chief Ben Model and nitrate elements supplied by the Library Of Congress and L.A.'s Academy Library. Music is authentic to 1922 premiere playdates, up to and including a "Marion Davies March" composed by Victor Herbert (had this been heard anywhere since then?). Further rescue from first-runs is color enhance of a chase scene that is work of Jack Theakston, whose name on a project always assures quality. Greenbriar was also associated, which won't stop my bragging on Knighthood, as all creative work was Undercrank's. There is, of course, music as Ben Model-rendered, plus splendid liner notes by Lara Gabrielle Fowler. All this is every bit as impressive as any silent restoration a big distributor could turn out. If pre-talk treasure has a home-view future, it will be dedicated labels like Undercrank that supply it. Just in a past year, we have seen Colleen Moore in Little Orphant Annie (1918), as rescued by historian Eric Grayson, and there are Blu-Rays emerging regularly from Jack Hardy's Grapevine address. Silents are getting golden again, but need buyer support to stay that way.

Not a few saw When Knighthood Was In Flower as an epoch-maker. Near-all would sell it that way. Prominent to ads was cost being $1.5 million. This was money unimaginable in 1922. Who, earning a couple thousand a year, if they were lucky, could count that high? Indiana boasted source novelist Charles Major as one of the state's own. He wrote Knighthood under nom de plume of Edwin Caskoden. The book was hugely popular, and doubtless helped the film find its public. Evansville, Ind. thumped the Major association and played When Knighthood Was In Flower for a week. The Strand's campaign put other theatres in shade, a new style ad for each day of Knighthood stay. Opening on 2-18-23 got half a page, plus story synopsis among "Amusements" reportage the Evansville Journal did. Pen-and-ink art was a plus, and how lucky was Evansville to have this hit after fifteen weeks of New Yorkers storming doors to see it? For all of impression, here was Broadway on road tour, with only the Strand worthy to host such an "Engagement Extraordinary." Will Knighthood still impress? It is sure lavish from first shot to last, with image quality making the ninety-five year trip w/ nary blemish, and thanks to Undercrank's go-the-extra mile effort, fully complete at roadshow length. 


Blogger Donald Benson said...

Disney did the same book as "The Sword and the Rose", one of their British-based adventures with Glynis Johns as Henry's sister.

It has the dubious distinction of being a bodice-ripper where nobody touches a bodice. Villains are set on marrying her; the most vile of them tries to drag her forcibly before a waiting cleric. When she resolves to wear out her elderly husband, it's not only kept Disney clean (the poor old boy needs help mounting a horse, and even that is scrubbed of innuendo), but there's a bit of dialogue where he protests he's never had any time alone with his bride. Henry himself is limited to dancing with a pretty girl at a ball and running a financial swindle.

It's a pretty film with nice location, sound British actors, and Ellenshaw mattes; much like all the Disney British films. It's just that somewhere they decided to make a more or less adult romance that was safe for little kids to watch.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Thanks. I just ordered this. Look forward to it. Nice to be warned of the Disney bowdlerized version.

11:12 AM  
Blogger kenneth Von Gunden said...

I'm too lazy to read between the lines: where I order this?


The wolf, man.

12:33 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Amazon has it in stock.

1:07 PM  
Blogger kenneth Von Gunden said...

Thank you, John.


The wolf, man.

4:04 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

Congratulations on another excellent entry -- Ol' W. R. Hearst would be proud. And thanks for Greenbriar Picture Show's contribution to this restoration project that puts Marion Davies back in the limelight. I'm afraid she's been pretty much forgotten, lost to history.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

It's too bad that people (here in Canada) can't buy this film at a store like they used to (HMV went under in April of this year [] and people have to buy DVD's/CD's/Blu-Rays off of Amazon.) Best Buy and Wal-Mart aren't good for anything but new movies and cheap ones from cheap companies.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I buy nearly everything from Amazon. I rarely went to HMV, supported SUNRISE at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto, Canada because the man in charge (Stan Michna) knew his stuff and was surrounded by a staff that sparkled with enthusiasm until the chain was sold and the new owner found out the original owners (who owned the land the store sat on) planned to increase the rent beyond the wildest dreams of avarice (love that line).

Amazon gets stuff to me FAST, often faster than is promised. I also don't have to deal with "hip" ageist staff who act like I'm uncool for being interested in things older than they are. No complaints here.

Heck, I regularly hit Amazon England, France, Germany, etc., to find things Amazon Canada and USA can't deliver. We are in a golden age. No complaints here.

5:33 AM  

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