Thursday, June 22, 2017

Greta Garbo and...Lionel Barrymore? Their films

On perusing my FB page, I noticed a freebie Kindle available of collected silent star essays/ bios from old movie magazines. They are available online if one wants to trudge through the PDFs, but the author, Shane Brown, has collated them handily, so I was able to read several easily.

And imagine my surprise! One article on Greta Garbo, from Photoplay in 1928 marked "The Story of Greta Garbo As Told to Ruth Biery", tells me a little more about her working relationship with that most busy of character stars, Mr. Lionel Barrymore. No, Garbo has no comments about his work in the article, but she notes something intriguing: she was tapped to play in Women Love Diamonds (1927) and turned it down. Lionel Barrymore played in that film with Pauline Starke, Owen Moore, and Cissy Fitzgerald.

It made me wonder just HOW many films they had appeared in together, and it appears thusly:

1: In 1926, Mr B and Garbo appeared together for the first time in THE TEMPTRESS, directed by Fred Niblo. Lionel Barrymore played the French former soldier Canterac. He writes in his biography We Barrymores that he had asked his brother John, supposedly a ladies' man of the world, how he might approach Miss Garbo--John's answer was revealing to Lionel, at least.

(almost) 2: In 1927, Garbo and Ricardo Cortez started filming LOVE, an adaptation of Anna Karenina, with Lionel Barrymore in a dapper role (as Karenin):

From a Garbo biography, pics from The Temptress and the LB-featuring Love

 However, Garbo balked at Cortez' work (per a 1928 Photoplay article) and also fell ill, and eventually MGM replaced him with John Gilbert and cut out Barrymore's part completely. I have read that he was showing up Cortez and the nervous, frustrated Garbo was not able to give her best, seemingly overwhelmed.(h/t Sheila Terry of Silent Films Today for finding the initial error here!)

3: MATA HARI, 1931, was a spectacle featuring Garbo, a miscast Ramon Novarro, and Lionel Barrymore as General Shubin, Mata Hari's lover and facilitator of her spying. It's all over the place as a film!

4: GRAND HOTEL, 1932, was the first real epic Hollywood studio star-studded film. Garbo and Lionel Barrymore did not have scenes together, but his brother John certainly did (with Garbo and Lionel). Lionel plays the dying clerk Otto Kringelein, who finally gives his brutish boss a comeuppance. Some really good scenes for Mr. B in this one.

Set shots of Cedric Gibbons' work and Garbo and Jack
John, Lionel, and Lewis Stone
Top-down shot between scenes--this collection of people does not appear in the film!
Lionel, Wally Beery, and Jean Hersholt between scenes on set

Lionel and then wife Irene Fenwick at the premiere (tho rumor had it he snuck in a side door)

5: CAMILLE in which LB plays Msr. Duval and had a small but pivotal scene with Garbo. (More on this soon!) 

So overall, Lionel Barrymore and Greta Garbo worked together in five films, four of which were released between 1926 and 1934. Now, John Gilbert and Greta Garbo appeared together in FLESH AND THE DEVIL, the redone LOVE, A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS, and finally the talkie QUEEN CHRISTINA, between 1926 and 1933.

5 with Lionel Barrymore--and interestingly, Garbo and Barrymore played lovers once in MATA HARI, and his character in THE TEMPTRESS wanted to be her lover and actually kissed her right before another jealous would-be lover bursts in and there is an epic fight. 

So how did it all end?

John Gilbert's early death is well-known, generally. He died in 1936 at only 38, a victim of changing tastes in films--his voice was pleasant enough, his lines not so pleasant, and the audiences for the new talking pictures did not take to his romantic swashbuckling in sound.  Gilbert's career crash is the basis for the Don Lockwood character's experience in SINGING IN THE RAIN. Interestingly, Lionel Barrymore directed Gilbert's first talkie, HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT, 1929. Mr. B has been accused of sabotaging the film under direction from LB Mayer, but it appears that's likely false--especially as contemporary critics lauded the direction and found Gilbert's voice adequate to speaking the foolish lines. (I might also add that the clip of His Glorious Night I've seen has Gilbert forcing a Brit-like sound into his voice, and it is unnatural compared to the 1929 Hollywood Revue voice he has. So perhaps he was trying too hard in HGN?)

Greta Garbo was already a legend in the 1920s, but left films after 1941's TWO-FACED WOMAN. She is far better remembered than her male costars here. She died at 84 in 1990.

Lionel Barrymore would go on to enduring success in film, as both actor and director initially (he directed Ricardo Cortez and others in TEN CENTS A DANCE, 1931, and directed John Gilbert, as mentioned, in HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT, 1929, having just starred with Gilbert in Tod Browning's THE SHOW, 1927). He was outlived by Garbo, but long outlived John Gilbert and proved the most enduring performer of the three stars mentioned here. (Ricardo Cortez fell out of favor with major studio audiences and dropped into B-films in the late 1930s, dying in 1977 after having lasted into TV; he apparently was much more appealing to the ladies in silents and seems to have played heavies and detective or mobster roles in many talkies.)

Mr. B commented he did not necessarily find Garbo cold or aloof, but shy, rather. He did not venture too many words on the subject, but he did think her aloofness stemmed more from being naturally shy than from any overdeveloped sense of self, he says in We Barrymores. I'd like to think that's true. In any case, her amor fou with John Gilbert seemed destined to end poorly--in the end, she did not want to marry and Gilbert already was married.

Given that Lionel was on the second of his two long marriages, and that he was in awe of her and not interested in an affair (seemingly, he was simply nuts about Irene Fenwick), there was little chance of any affair there, and I'm sure as they worked together, they formed a decent relationship and respected each other's work.  We know she really admired Jack Barrymore, as he did her.

But wow-- who knew Garbo and Lionel Barrymore co-starred in 5 films together, with four of thoae released, and Garbo could have made a sixth one--with Lionel. Heh!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Anything for Selena-- er, Lionel B

So because I really, really want this upper left pic, I signed up for the auction site. It's from Laugh, Clown, Laugh, and I've only seen one other.

I can only hope! I have a signed Mr. Cantonwine, which wasn't too pricey, and several cigarette cards.

Come on, Mr B! Come to mama! :)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

June Silent Films of Merit, Lionel-wise

Because the man made SO MANY films, it's rather hard to construct a "on this day in 19__, *film title* starring or featuring Lionel Barrymore was released".  But it being almost June, and me being a poor bloger lately due to the vagaries of life and work, here's a brief rundown of significant Lionel Barrymore June releases:

A TIMELY INTERCEPTION: June 7, 1913. EXTANT at Harpodeon. LB plays the uncle of Bobby Harron, with Christy Cabanne, who wrote the film. A rather lively drama in which LB wears a beard and looks quite elderly!

 DEATH'S MARATHON: June 14, 1913. Awesome film, ruled by Henry B Walthall. A dark and frightening piece of film, available online.
 Henry B. Walthall in  Death's Marathon

THE SWITCH TOWER June 16, 1913. A real humdinger of a silent, with HB Walthall and Lionel Barrymore, as well as Claire McDowell and most of the Biograph cast. Available online. Great film, fun, fast, exciting!

LB as the Engraver

THE ROMANCE OF ELAINE: first episode released June 14, 1915. Lionel Barrymore plays the villain Marcus del Mar in this second of the Elaine serials. It is supposedly completely lost, but with 12 episodes, hope reigns...

DORIAN'S DIVORCE: June 6, 1916. Apparently extant in France, this is a Metro released done for Rolfe in which LB plays Richard Dorian, to whom much adventure will occur due to love. Ahhh!

There are of course many more, but these will suffice for a quick late May post. I do recommend Death's Marathon and The Switch Tower if you have not seen them. Stop on by the blog and check them out under the filmographies for the given year.

Friday, April 28, 2017

139 years of quiet awesomeness

...set to a Russian-composer inspired tone poem.

Happy birthday to one of the most fascinating figures I've ever researched,  a resilient,  talented,  funny, complex man who really does inspire me in my own stupid medical difficulty by his determination. But that humor,  the huge curiosity, his interest in so many things, and yes, even his humor and  cynicism resound with me and make me grin.

Happy birthday,  Mr. Barrymore. I hope you and the ones you love are indeed sitting by the river,  with time enough at last. God bless.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In which Mr. B has another first, re: smoking

According to (on the historic "firsts" of the Savoy Hotel in London):

"71. The first fireproof eiderdown provided to an unsuspecting guest was for actor Lionel Barrymore, who had a habit of chain-smoking while reading in bed."

It is a certainty both Barrymore boys developed a lifelong smoking habit from their early teens: John and Lionel recount a story of them discovering a freebie trading card of their mother, Georgiana Drew, in a freshly opened pack of cigarettes, and Lionel then decking someone who dared to insult her image on the card.  Many, many people tell stories of the omnipresence of his smoke, and at the end of his life in his car, while writing "We Barrymores" with Cameron Shipp, he dumped cartons of cigarettes into a large can in the front seat of his car and chain-smoked. Here are a few of the zillion Mr. B-smoking pics out there:

c. 1928 or so, MGM
1936, I believe, Jack in the midst of Elaine drama
On set circa 1937
Women Love Diamonds
Claire Trevor with her own smoke kisses Mr. B, 1948
Body and Soul
Arsene Lupin
The Splendid Road

Post five of Lionel Barrymore Birthday Blog Bash. Smoking is a nasty habit. Don't pick it up! (Do as I say, not as I do, in other words!)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Color me Lionel B

So, I'm very much new to the world of coloring black and white photos, and I've achieved probably the best I can do with clothing in this old chestnut from Xmas 2016:

Mr. B as Walter Butler in AMERICA, 1924. I left his face pale white,apropos of film makeup for this role. I LOVE his jacket!!

But for this Seventh of Lionel, here's a new one from The Temptress, the first film in which he appeared with Garbo:

As Canterac, watching Greta Garbo sit to eat with the roughnecks
I'll put the original here, with the caveat I colored and modified with photoshop filter. It's NOT an easy thing to do this carefully!

I cropped and much modified the background of this screengrab.

I REALLY like this one! The Jest, 1917.

It's not an easy thing to colorize pics, and it's certainly not easy to do it with a screengrab from a film. Stills are easier, grabs no. The density and quality suffers, but it's a start.  In any event, Happy Seventh day of Lionel!

This is the fifth Lionel Birthday Blog Bash post.