Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beggars of Life / UK / Dodge Brothers / April 18

Beggars of Life, the 1928 William Wellman-directed film based on the acclaimed book by Jim Tully and starring future Academy Award winner Wallace Beery and silent film stars Richard Arlen and Louise Brooks will be shown in in the UK on Sunday, April 18th at 2 pm. The screening is part of the British Silent Film Festival taking place in the UK. More info here.

Accompanying the film are the Dodge Brothers, a musical combo made up of Mike Hammond (guitar/banjo), British television and radio personality Mark Kermode (double bass/accordion), Aly Hirji (guitar/mandolin) and Alex Hammond (percussion). Joining them will be guest Dodge Brother Neil Brand - the renowned British writer, composer, and silent film accompanist. The group will be performing their original score to the 100 minute drama, which they describe as infused with musical "Americana."

he Dodge Brothers are a self-described skiffle group, but in American lingo, they might be termed roots music with a strong feel for rock-a-billy. (I guess it just depends on the tree you are talking about.) The Dodge Brothers have released two albums to date. Their most recent is "Louisa & The Devil," released in October of 2009 on Weeping Angel Records. Below is a short videowhich gives a taste of the group's musical approach. More info on the band at

If anyone attends this special screening of Beggars of Life, I would love to hear your impressions. Please post something in the comments section below!


  1. The festival bills it as "The Dodge Brothers and Beggars of Life". ?, as Louise Brooks would say.

    Neil Brand delivered the third James Card Memorial Lecture, in 2003 (following Basinger and Brownlow). The Dryden Theatre gave him a house of lauds: "A witty and knowledgeable film historian, as well as an accomplished musician and composer, the British Film Institute's Neil Brand is considered by many one of the finest improvisational silent film accompanists in the world. Brand will demonstrate his art, using clips from silent films such as 'Pandora's Box' and 'South: Shackleton's Journey to the South Pole'. Then he will face the challenge of improvising to a surprise film."

    The surprise would have come from their extensive archives -- which the Toronto Film Society (1948) has been mining annually since 1983, on a trip they call cavalierly "Raiding the Vaults at Eastman House". It so happens that Beggars will be the Louise Brooks entrée when they make the two-day foray this August. ... The old Treadway Inn property is one of the accommodations they use, at a discount.

    Beggars will be shown next Tuesday, too, as the penultimate offering in the Dryden’s three-month Silent Cinema series.

    See also the March 2 blog, "Beggars of Life to screen in UK ...".

    P.S. If you enjoyed ...
    ... you might like ... . "Boy!"

  2. ERRATUM It's the venue, Phoenix Square*, that bills the event as "The Dodge Brothers and Beggars of Life". Good of the British Silent Film Festival to put Brooks (and Arlen) on their Homepage.

    *Good name for a skiffle song?

  3. I'll be going - thanks for the link!

  4. I've just returned from the screening of Beggars of Life. The film was well attended with the auditorium near capacity. The Dodge Brothers score was fab and matched the film very well. The audience loved the film (including people who had never seen a silent film, let alone a Broosky film before). My friends were intrigued by Brooks and wish to discover more about her. Many thanks to the British Silent Film Festival for putting this on.

  5. I approached this film with high anticipation: I'd read about it a long time ago (indeed, Thomas gifted me a photoplay copy of the book some years ago - which I did not read, preferring to see the film first). It was absolutely brilliant! Louise mesmerising; the overlaid montage of her explaining how she came to kill her adoptive parent must have been ground-breaking at the time; excellent use of outdoor locations; story believable; Neil Brand and the augmented Dodge Brothers (Mark Kermode stranded in Greece due to precipitation from the Icelandic volcano) provided a full and enjoyable accompaniment, commencing with a vocal of the Beggars of Life song. The only criticism I had of the film was that the depiction of "Black Mose" (Edgar Washington) started as sympathetic but descended into uncomfortable caricature.

  6. I attended this screening and went, primarily, as a Dodge Brothers fan but left as a Brooks convert, hence my seeking out of this blog.
    The score was superbly crafted to enhance the film with some sublime moments of symbiosis, for example one scene where Brooks and Arlen swagger down a rail track with each footstep beating perfect time to the Dodge Brothers riff.

    I couldn't take my eyes off Brooks when she was on screen, her performance was subtle yet affecting, with some deft comedic touches and I can only assume, from what I have seen of other silent era actors, she must now be considered to have been ahead of her time.
    The film itself whilst excellent does suffer from a lack of Louise Brooks presence in the final third which is largely dominated by the Wallace Beery character.
    I have since been a little disappointed to discover that there is seemingly a quite limited body of Louise Brooks work to explore but what there is I will look forward to.

  7. The same volcano that kept Mark Kermode in Greece, grounded the Dryden Theatre's resident pianist, Philip Carli, in Ireland. So, they played James Card's reel-to-reel tape of music he compiled for the picture -- the music he played for Louise Brooks when she saw it. There is a god (of fire)! ... Don't know much 'bout musicology; it was skiffle to me. But the past IS analogue.

    Speaking of Edgar Washington Blue: (1) The intertitle for his first speech is nearly identical to Sidney Poitier's last line in No Way Out -- "Don't worry, white boy. You're gwin to live." (2) In the 1938 movie Over the Wall, he played guitar while Dick Foran sang "Have You Seen My Lulu?"

    And speaking of "ground-breaking" flashback techniques: Cf. Preston Sturges's "narratage" in The Power and the Glory.


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