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The 70th Berlinale International Film Festival will be held from February 20 to March 1, 2020.
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Comments on Vidor Films

By Alex Deleon

I finally braved the weather and saw some films today.

Four by King Vidor in the Vidor retrospective.

(1) Our Daily Bread, 1934. New Deal era drama with comic overtones. Depression refugees dig a giant ditch during a devastating drought to irrigate their dying crops. Nice love story in there too. Pure innocence, very easy on the mind and the eye. They don't make 'em like this anymore. And the handsome hero Tom Keene wears a great floppy fedora throughout.  Don't make hats like that either!
 
(2) Street Scene. 1931. Very early talkie based on a stage play is all tawk on a hot summer night in New York.  Almost all the lack of action perspires on the steps of a New York brownstone. Gave it twenty minutes then took a walk.
 
(3) The Big Parade. The super silent classic that put MGM on the map in 1925.  The second most successful silent film of all time.  Easy to see why. John Gilbert is the hero as an idle young rich boy who is swept up in the patriotic war fever of 1917 and elists as a buck private with a couple of buddies. He's engaged to childhood sweetheart Justyn when he leaves but falls in love with a French  peasant gal, Marceline, in a village where he and his two good buddies are stationed before moving Up to the front.  Then comes Part 2.  A tremendous change of pace with grueling war scenes, shell hole craters used as fox holes, German machine guns firing away, mortars pumping death, lobbed hand grenades, fixed bayonets and hand to hand fighting  in the trenches. Gilbert loses his buddies and a leg in one of the grisly night battles.
Marceline's village is decimated and she has disappeared. The war over he returns home to his family with one leg missing  and finds that Justyn finally gave up on him and took up with his nerdish brother instead.  Distraut he reveals to mother that "there is a girl in France".   Mom says "Go for it son".  Last scene we see Marceline painfully pushing a plow in France when her American lover shows up on the horizon hobbling along on his Citizen Cane with a prosthetic leg now in place. Picture ends on their tender clutching embrace.
 
All final scenes, especially the legless homecoming after the war, are quite emotional and must have been heavy tear jerkers in their time. The two and a half hours flew by with no drag or lag helped along with good inter titles reflecting the idiom of the time (For the love of Mike!) and Xlnt live piano accompaniment. All in all, a true historical landmark of a movie. I am not overly hot on silent movies but this one was very well worth the sit through. I had a "swell time" and felt that an important gap in my personal history of Hollywood film had been filled in. Now about to address myself to a big box of authentic Japanese sushi and may even use the ticket  I have for still another Vidor, The Fountainhead, 1949, with Gary Cooper as an Ann Rynd architect. Saw it long ago but it might be fun to see it again, tonight at 10:00 Pm.

Handsome John Gilbert (born July 10, 1897 – died January 9, 1936) was a highly popular  American star of the pre-sound days in Hollywood. He rose to fame during the silent film era and became a popular leading man known as "The Great Lover".  Died in 1936 at the age of 38!

 
4. The Fountainhead, 1949.
Cooper was too old to play the brash young architect, Howard Roark, of the best selling "Objectivism"  Ayn Rand novel and he was generally miscast as a word slinger rather than a gunslinger. Nevertheless, interesting to watch in this enforced about face,  Patricia Neal made a strong debut which she would soon follow up with the Sci Fi classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Fine B/w cinematography and sure handed direction by now aging veteran Vidor makes this a worthwhile symbol of the early postwar years in Hollywood.
 
Photo above: Renee Adoree and John Gilbert at age 27 in The Big Parade

 

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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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