Category Archives: 1923

Dogs of War (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

Dogs of War features some of Robert F. McGowan’s finest directorial work. Sure, he’s aping World War I movies–specifically trench warfare and no man’s land, which seem highly inappropriate subjects for comedy–but it’s incredibly well-directed. A lot of his setups are shockingly good.

The “war” aspect of Dogs only lasts about nine minutes before the short moves into its better setting–a movie studio. The Our Gang kids crash the studio when the girl (the real girl, Mary Kornman, not Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins, who’s gender-bending this time) gets a bit part.

The movie studio antics are amusing without ever getting particularly funny. The gang–no one stands out, not even Farina–is endearing though and Dogs passes the time nicely.

The Harold Lloyd cameo doesn’t hurt.

After the incredibly uncomfortable and off-putting opening, Dogs turns out to be a rather pleasant outing for the gang.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Harry W. Gerstad; edited by Thomas J. Crizer; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Joe Cobb (Joe), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Jack Davis (Jack), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Ernest Morrison (Sunshine Sammy), Mary Kornman (Mary), Dick Gilbert (Studio guard) and William Gillespie (Director).


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La roue (1923, Abel Gance)

Gance is very ambitious with La roue, only not so much technically. Even the second half of the film, which opens up considerably (the first half takes place in a train yard, mostly on one set, while the second half moves the action to a idyllic mountaintop), Gance is far more concerned his protagonist’s internal struggles.

During the first half of the film, the protagonist—played by Séverin-Mars—has come to the realization he has improper feelings for his adoptive daughter (she doesn’t know she’s adopted, however). It rips the family apart, driving the daughter (played by Ivy Close) into a loveless marriage and leaves her brother (also unaware she’s adopted) in ruins. Gance plays pretty loose with the logic at times—he cut about three hours for the public release, so who knows—as the brother (Gabriel de Gravone) also has improper feelings, he just doesn’t know they’re technically “okay.” It’s all pretty creepy, actually, but very well done.

During the second half, Séverin-Mars’s problems become more physical, which leads to the the move to the mountaintop. There Gance really gets to show off. Before, he had some great editing, but in the second half, he also has some amazing shots. The film eventually has a bunch of out of place Christian allegory, but it eventually ebbs.

Fine acting from Séverin-Mars and de Gravone. Close’s good in an underdeveloped role. Georges Térof is great as Séverin-Mars’s sidekick.

It’s often quite brilliant, but a little hollow.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Abel Gance; directors of photography, Gaston Brun, Marc Bujard, Léonce-Henri Burel and Maurice Duverger; edited by Marguerite Beaugé and Gance; produced by Gance and Charles Pathé; released by Pathé.

Starring Séverin-Mars (Sisif), Ivy Close (Norma), Gabriel de Gravone (Elie), Pierre Magnier (Jacques de Hersan), Max Maxudian (Le minéralogiste Kalatikascopoulos), Georges Térof (Machefer) and Gil Clary (Dalilah).


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Oranges and Lemons (1923, George Jeske)

Jeske isn’t much of a director, which I feel weird saying as Oranges and Lemons has a really masterfully done sequence. Jeske holds the shot as Stan Laurel keeps confusing Eddie Baker, who’s pursuing him. It’s brilliant stuff, as Laurel is a great physical comedian.

The directing problems come immediately following, when Laurel enters a warehouse and Jeske never does a proper establishing shot. It might be a budgetary constraint, but it really hurts the short. Except, of course, Laurel is there to make it work.

And Oranges does succeed. It doesn’t have a story–Laurel’s a lazy employee at a poorly run orchard. It follows his morning through a couple assignments (though lazy, he is industrious–Laurel doesn’t pass a single task without attempting it). He gets in trouble with his boss, chaos ensues.

The short succeeds specifically due to Laurel’s presence. It’s impossible to imagine Oranges without him.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by George Jeske; director of photography, Frank Young; produced by Hal Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Stan Laurel (Sunkist), Katherine Grant (Little Valencia) and Eddie Baker (Orange Blossom).


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It’s a Gift (1923, Hugh Fay)

It’s a Gift has such a great plot, it’s impossible it’s going to succeed. There’s a gasoline crisis so the losing oil companies decide to get rid of petroleum all together and instead use a synthetic.

The oil barons approach ‘Snub’ Pollard, an inventor.

The inventions are Gift‘s primary appeal. There are all sorts of contraptions to make regular life (waking, breakfast, dressing) easier. But the space is also conserved by items suiting dual purpose. Part of the pleasure is discovering those purposes.

Because, otherwise, Gift has little to recommend it. Director Fay handles the eventual manic action quite well, but leading man Pollard is lifeless. He’s not convincing as an absent-minded professor.

The script’s lazy and contrived, though there is one scene where Pollard almost gets someone drowned before running off. It’s easily the most exciting scene.

Gift is short, which helps a little. But not much.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Hugh Fay; produced by Hal Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring ‘Snub’ Pollard (Inventor Pollard), Marie Mosquini (The Girl), William Gillespie (Weller Pump, oil executive), Wallace Howe (Customer) and Mark Jones (Swindler).


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