Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reviews on last night

Well, not so much reviews as quick comments. Unsurprisingly, I found the documentary Baby Peggy: The ELephant in the Room to be quite enjoyable. I knew the brief outline of the Baby Peggy story, but not all the horrible details. I find it difficult to believe Sol Lesser's claim that Captain January lost money, and that this is the reason why he wanted to get out of the Baby Peggy contract. Studio accounting can do magical things, however, and apparently could do so all the way back in 1924. You also have to feel really bad for Peggy's sister Louise, who was put into this situation without any say. I'm reminded of the true stories dramatized in the movies Hilary and Jackie (about cellist Jacqueline Du Pré, written by her sister and brother who grew up with the world-class cello prodigy), or Searching for Bobby Fischer. I also wonder how much of the Baby Peggy story was remembered by the people who made What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Of course, that movie made the title of Peggy/Diana Cary's own autobiography, What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy? much more appropriate.

Captain January was charming. That poor dog, getting his tail bit by the pelican. The interesting thing was seeing which scenes survived well and which didn't. There were scenes where I thought the print looked to be in great shape; other times -- sometimes within the same scene, such as one where the two biological relatives are visiting the lighthouse -- the print looks murky and blurry, as if it were taken from a 16mm television print, as bad as something like The Black Book.

Captain January was followed by the short Bubbles, from WB/Vitaphone in 1930. The title card mentions Technicolor, but the surviving print is black and white. It looked like some of the people in the short had odd shadowing around their eyes, which makes me wonder whether that was make-up for color cameras, which just comes out looking wrong in black-and-white. The title cards only mention the "Vitaphone Kiddies", but apparently Mae Questel was in the opening scene, and the Gumm sisters (that's Judy Garland, who was born Frances Gumm) were among the Kiddies. The Kiddies performed a bunch of musical and dance numbers which were even odder than the ones in Show Kids, with a very bizarre MC.

Carmen Jr. was a hoot. Baby Peggy dancing with the little boy was a riot, and the scenes leading up to that, which were almost entirely the child actors, were so much fun. The intertitles were in Danish with English subtitles, rather than removing the Danish intertitles and replacing them with a reconstruction of the English. I don't speak Danish, but the intertitles looked a bit old-fashioned. All of the nouns were capitalized, as in German (I can read German, and with Danish being from the Germanic family of langugaes, I can recognize a fair number of root words). I don't believe Danish does that any more. Also, I don't think I saw the Danish letter å show up anywhere, instead it was replaced by -aa. Most interestingly, Baby Peggy's last name was mispelled as Montgommery, with a double M.

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