Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Missing, most wanted

Every (most?) classic film fans will, at some stage or another, find themselves wishing they could see a film considered lost. Common ones include Tod Browning's "London After Midnight" starring Lon Chaney or Murnau's "4 Devils", both available in reconstructed approximations using stills - most lost films don't even have that. Others like "Sadie Thompson" with Gloria Swanson survive in trucated forms, in this particular case nearly complete, but on the other hand only one reel has been found of "The Divine Woman" with Garbo (there are other instances where only small fragments survive). Occasionally, miracles happen - the Gloria Swanson/Valentino only pairing "Beyond the Rocks" was found in the early 2000s and more recently, the nearly complete director's cut of "Metropolis".

And of course there are versions of films which were never released, like Orson Welles' cut of "The Magnificient Ambersons" which I think would top anyone's most wanted list. Although even in this department miracles do happen, as the 2004 finding of the pre-release cut of "Baby Face" now available on the "Forbidden Hollywood vol 1" DVD set (not holding my breath for "Ambersons" though).

So, which one is mine? Well, it's an infamous WB Pre-code comedy called (yes, you've guessed it...) "Convention City" starring Joan Blondell, Mary Astor, Adolph Menjou and an array of other familiar faces of the studio. This is possibly the last major production of a Hollywood studio to be lost. After the Hays Code was fully enforced it remained mostly in the vaults (although it has been shown somewhere in the US in 1937). It has since gained a reputation of being too daring even within Pre-Code limits (I doubt it can be "worst" than "Baby Face"...). A full background can be found in this thread here. Because it did had a proper release there is hope it one day may resurface, even if it's in a truncated copy. My fingers are crossed. Yet, do I really believe that it will live to my expections? Honestly, no. It was probably as memorable or as forgetable as most of the comedies produced by WB between 1930 and 1934 - but I certainly wish I had the chance to see it.


amz said...

That would definitely be my #1 choice too!!

Russell said...

I read somewhere that there was a full cast reading of the script performed a few years ago but it didn't seem to live up to expectations. The main reason seemed to be that no one could replicate the acting style of the 30s well enough so a lot of the dialogue fell flat.

It does sound like a terribly daring film though I can't imagine it can possibly be as outrageous as Clara Bow's "Call Her Savage". Personally I pray for an uncut version of Wheeler and Woolsey's "So This is Africa", another of the reasons the Hays Code came in. It's not going to happen but at least a version of the film exists, unlike "Convention City".