Sunday, February 12, 2012

Those without a time machine need not despair

Had you been alive and living in Charleston, West Virginia in mid-November of 1928, you could have gone to a local movie theater and taken in not only Abel Gance's Napoleon but also William Wellman's Beggars of Life, starring Louise Brooks. Regrettably, the Gance film was being shown in a severely truncated version - cut down from six hours to 80 minutes by MGM, its American distributor. Which version of Beggars of Life was being shown is not certain. Perhaps it was the silent version or perhaps it was the version with added sound effects and a musical score including Wallace Beery croaking out a version of the once popular theme song. Beggars of Life has the distinction of being Paramount's first sound film.

The newspaper page shown below includes Albert Dieudonne as Napoleon depicted in the upper right. Beery, Richard Arlen and Brooks are depicted in a scene from Beggars of Life in the middle left. The Brooks film is also noted as a future attraction in the lower right.


Those without a time machine need not despair! Beggars of Life will be screened in New York City on Monday, February 20, 2012 as part of the Film Forum's ongoing William Wellman tribute. Musical accompaniment will be provided by Steve Sterner. More info on this event can be found on this webpage.

And, on March 24, 25, 31 and April 1, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting Kevin Brownlow's epic restoration of Abel Gance's epic masterpiece Napoleon (1927) in a as-complete-as-it-will-ever-be five and one-half hour version with its original three screen finale and live musical accompaniment by Carl Davis leading the Oakland East Bay Symphony. More info on this extraordinary event can be found on this webpage.

Oh, and in case you are curious, here is a copy of the newspaper advertisement for Napoleon which ran on November 14, 1928 - which also happened to be Louise Brooks' 22nd birthday. At the time, the actress was in Berlin filming Pandora's Box.

1 comment:

  1. I remember fondly seeing a grainy version showing at the San Diego Model Railroad building - they had a miniature there of Carrizo Gorge, the filming location of Beggars of Life, of course - and wondering when it would be released in a relatively clean, bright version.

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