I did it.
I did it for History.
I did not blink.
I did not avoid.
I did not retreat.
I watched a silent movie.
What a simple epic tale of the life of a young man. I was stunned and amazed by the simple, straightforwardness of this tale. But not simple for simple’s sake. It’s the story of one man’s life. The fact is, that one’s life matters. We follow his journey, see his triumphs and mistakes. You wanted to smack him in the back of the head and tell him to wake up; …sometimes the hard part about life, is just living the day-to-day of it. You may not do extraordinary things – be rich and famous. ( Not every one can be a Honey Boo Boo Kardashian. ) You just live your life.
James Murray, himself plucked from the “chorus line of life” by King Vidor, does a remarkable job as an actor in this film. He reminds me a little of Dick Powell. He was very expressive. He plays the young man who thinks he can be more than he can be without putting in the work to be more. He breaks my heart as he goes out to try and sssssh the crowd as his baby lay dying. What does the cop tell him: “Life can’t stop just because you have a sick baby!” Devastating!
And Eleanor Boardman...well, I am becoming more and more over the moon about her, even though this is only the second film of hers I’ve seen. I think she has a Mary Astor kind of quiet beauty and subtlety of acting. A big lost for fans, her not pursuing a career in talkies. There is something about Boardman and Esther Ralston that is beautiful and contemporary. She sticks by her man in this; him not fully realizing she loves him for him…and not for what fame he can achieve.
Some one might look at this film and say “Nothing’s happening in this movie. What’s it about?!”
Like “Seinfeld” a film about ‘nothing’ is about everything. Thank goodness the great KING VIDOR took his sweet masterly time to show us a story about Life. Some of his shots are amazing eighty-three years later to this l’il old filmmaker, me. That famous famous shot, panning up the office building and going inside the office to see rows and rows of worker bees’ desks and the crane shot traveling the desks to one specific person – our Johnny boy. It was interesting to watch what Life looked like in the 20’s with all the background action going on. ( Did they really go to Coney Island and Niagara Falls? )
The last shot of the movie, a la “Sullivan’s Travels” shows how laughter enhances life. The camera’s tracking shot away from all those rows and rows of movie patrons was dizzying. Johnny and his wife were one of the crowd…lost in the crowd. How many stories could be told if only the camera stopped at any one of those seats. Now, I haven’t really totally truly genuinely warmed up to silents. It’s always a bit of a begrudging struggle for me to sit down…read titles…watch. But with “The Crowd” I could not turn away from seeing how life would turn out for this young couple. Hopes and dreams and love in the beginning. Struggles and a horrific tragedy in the midst. Knowing how to deal with the mundane every day ordinariness of life. If you can’t settle into that fact, life’s dissatisfaction can gnaw at you.
I thought looking at this film would fit in nicely with this weekend’s blogathon, which will cover several decades of motion picture history. If you want to read about the first fifty years of movies couched in the historic aspects of different eras, you but only have to click onto the banner here for the CLASSIC MOVIE HISTORY PROJECT BLOGATHON. I’m happy to be included in this blogathon that covers a wide swath of the movies, from 1880 -1975. Hosted by the ladies at: Movies Silently, Silver Screenings, Once Upon A Screen and… << drum roll please >> sponsored by Flicker Alley, this second edition is a wealth of information. Click, and you shall see…see…see. Scroll down and see the entries. I know I’m learning a thing or two. Or three. Or one hundred. Enjoy.
( H O M E )