Reviews of old movies: Talkies ruined the silent film stars.

Oddly enough, the same 2-reeler I used yesterday, “Bridge Wives” (1932), to show that the addition of sound actually enhanced Al St. John’s comedy style also shows why top talent in the silent film days had a hard time handling sound in movies.

Here it is again:

As noted, Al’s dialogue and how he delivers it is funny, culminating in that incredibly insane scream at around 3:35.  Unfortunately, the movie is over 10 minutes long.  While some of actress Fern Emmett’s oh-dears reminded me of Olive Oyl’s voice (no, Ms. Emmett isn’t listed among those who voiced that character), the continued maniacal sound from Al during his essentially slapstick moves is distracting at best and also a little off-putting.

This is a very well-produced film, from the selection of actors (all experts, it seems from watching them) to the set and the camera angles, pacing and editing, but what Goodrich/Arbuckle et al. (no pun intended) didn’t realize was that the scream ended the film.  It was hilarious and dramatic.  They went on to end the film with visuals (of the cops playing bridge with Mrs. Smith and Al’s dropping down a manhole…seriously, you have to see it).  This would have been a terrific ending in a silent film.

It’s an example, in this audience member’s opinion, of experienced professionals struggling with a totally new technology that appears simple but has an impact that’s quite different from anything that has come before, one that the film’s makers didn’t fully grasp.

Al St. John still rules, though.

What’s that?  Someone disagrees, saying his dues are paid, too?  Oh, well, I guess so…..

Categories: Reviews of old movies

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