Monday, January 5, 2009

Crowded House

TCM are honoring director King Vidor tomorrow, and I'd like to mention one of the movies that has not been released to DVD: the 1928 silent The Crowd, which airs at 6:00 AM ET on January 6.

James Murray stars as John, an everyman who leaves his small town and moves to the big city to try to make it in life. He gets a job behind a desk, and eventually meets Mary (Eleanor Boardman), falls in love with her, and marries her. However, life is not a bed of roses for the two of them, as they face financial problems and other hurdles that threaten to tear their marriage asunder.

The story is somewhat reminiscent of the later The Marrying Kind, in that it tells the story of two people who could be almost anybody. There's nothing particularly special about them, or glamorous about them. There's also nothing particularly happy about the couple. The story is not all that upbeat, although it does end on a hopeful note. As such, it can be a tough go at times. Indeed, the normally very astute Irving Thalberg feared that audiences wouldn't want to see a movie with a downbeat ending, and was very worried about how Vidor would end it. It turned out that the film was a financial success for MGM, however.

If the movie is a story about everyman and isn't particularly happy, then why watch it? There are a bunch of good reasons. One is that Vidor did quite a bit of location shooting in New York, using real people and not actors, as though he were filming a documentary. The footage of New York City as it was in 1928 is a treat. Also, there is some pretty amazing cinematography here. Of particular note is a tracking shot leading up the side of a skyscraper, into it, eventually ending up at Murray's desk. It's a precursor to the opening shot introducing Jack Lemmon at his office desk in The Apartment.

As I said, The Crowd has apparently not been released to DVD yet, and that's a huge shame. The movie has a great deal of artistic merit, and is well worth a viewing by anybody interested in learning more about silent movies, and how visuals tell a story.

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