A Movie A Day: THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926)
Maybe we ain’t got the brains, maybe you ain’t got the guts!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow Gary Cooper back into the silent era from yesterday’s 1939 Adventure/war flick THE REAL GLORY. Today’s flick is called THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH and marks the first silent film of the column so far.
I’m not very well versed in silent film outside of most of the classics, the Chaplins, the Keatons, a couple Chaney Sr’s… But most of the silent films I’ve seen have been theatrical. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a silent film for the first time at home before this film.
So, maybe not having a live orchestra affected my viewing experience on this one. I’ve seen silents I respected more than enjoyed (BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, for instance), but on the whole the silent film experience for me has been a good one. THE GENERAL, THE UNKNOWN, GOLD RUSH, METROPOLIS and more stand out as amazing theatrical experiences.
But for the first 20 minutes of this movie I was bored to tears. Here’s what happens: A wife buries her husband in the desert as her little girl looks on. Another band are traveling the desert and have some supper. A storm sweeps through and the mom dies, the other dudes pick up the girl and keep her for their own. That takes 20 minutes.
I will say that the film picks up quite a bit as we’re introduced to Barbara Worth, played by silent screen beauty Vilma Banky and her suitor, Abe Lee, played by Gary Cooper in his first screen appearance as a co-lead.
The main thrust of the story is how Barbara Worth’s adoptive parents realize their dream of settling in the desert, turning it a “second Eden” using irrigation to pull water from the Colorado River. A big wig richer (EJ Ratcliffe) comes in to fund the operation only to raise the prices in the town so the workers can’t afford to live there anymore, charging $2 for a shave, etc.
The richer’s sidekick is an up and coming banker with a sleazy mustache played by Ronald Colman. Even though this film is in the Gary Cooper box set, Colman’s really the lead here. It’s his arc, going from zero to hero and trying to win the heart of Ms. Worth.
So, Barbara Worth’s daddy has had enough and moves all the work force out of the booming new town. There’s also the little problem that Richy Rich is too cheap to reinforce the dam and the town is in danger of flooding. So, no matter which way you look at it, they gots to get out.
But we soon come to find that these workers are actually a group of impatient assholes. They call Papa Worth their savior for leading them out of town, but when Richy Rich uses his influence to make Papa Worth’s line of credit null and void and he misses one payday, the ingrateful bastards are ready to lynch him and his daughter.
Fucked up, right?
From that point on it’s a race against time as Colman and Cooper try to get the payroll to the towspeople, whoever succeeding likely to win the heart of Barbarba Worth (with the added bonus of saving her life). So who’s it going to be? Her best friend since childhood who worships the ground she walks on or the reformed banker do-gooder with the creepy ‘stache?
The climax of the movie involves a rather large flood and some really fucked up moments, like a mother getting hit by a speeding carriage, causing it to flip.
Also look for a swastika embroidered on a pillow in the final scenes… I guess this was back when it was still a good Native American symbol before Hitler ruined it for everybody.
Final Thoughts: The movie does pick up after a slow, slow, mind-numbing start, thank God, but ultimately I’d only recommend this one for serious cinephiles. They play with colors in the film (blue colored film for night scenes, yellow for everything – because it’s the desert, see – and a couple others that make for an interesting viewing, but it’s not a classic film. It doesn’t stand up with the best I’ve seen, but if you’re a big a big film fan it’s a fascinating watch just because it still exits.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Thursday, September 18th: THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938)
Friday, September 19th: DAKOTA (1945)
Saturday, September 20th: RED RIVER (1948)
Sunday, September 21st: INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE/TERMINAL STATION (1954)
Monday, September 22nd: THE SEARCH (1948)
Tuesday, September 23rd: ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948)
Wednesday, September 24th: HOUDINI (1953)
Tomorrow we have one more Gary Cooper movie, this time a romantic comedy (in that new fangled soundie technology). Tomorrow also begins Fantastic Fest, so please forgive me in advance if the next week’s AMADs come through half-assed. I’ll be seeing 33-36 films in the next week and writing them up as well. I will do my best, but I am only human.
See you folks tomorrow for THE COWBOY AND THE LADY!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Sept. 18, 2008, 2:11 a.m. CST
Have you seen any of the films that Houdini actually starred in? I just rented the Kino set that has all of his surviving films. Should be exciting.
Sept. 18, 2008, 3:19 a.m. CST
I don't remember Johnny Depp but those chicks going at it were hot!
Sept. 18, 2008, 8:31 a.m. CST
Sept. 18, 2008, 10:27 a.m. CST
i mean i respect what you are trying to do, but this is definitely not COOL NEWS.
Sept. 18, 2008, 11:12 a.m. CST
May I introduce you to Harold Lloyd? He has some great flicks. And he did some great sound flicks. I reccomend Grandma's Boy and the Freshmen, and Safety Last and there is a bunch of others. You will be plesantly surprised.
Sept. 18, 2008, 11:38 a.m. CST
And all the writing involved? Quint, are you trying to kill yourself?<p> Lukecash, you're right, Lloyd is great, but I'm still a much bigger Chaplin fan at heart. City Lights, The Kid. Pure blissful cinema.
Sept. 18, 2008, noon CST
Quint, I am going to suggest three movies: Greed, The Wedding March, and Sunrise. Greed has one of the best endings ever, The Wedding March one of the saddest endings ever, and Sunrise is just a great movie. Plus I was at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax to see Sunrise when the owner was murdered (that story could be a film noir all it's own).
Sept. 18, 2008, 12:17 p.m. CST
Keep up the good work Quint. I hope you don't burn yourself out next week. Saw Chaney Sr.'s Phantom of the Opera in D.C. at the Kennedy Center with orchestra about 15 years ago.. It was phenominal. p.s. if some folks doesn't like this column, don't read it. It's not a waste of space... on the contrary I find it helpful and very cool. I've rented/bought some of the titles he's reviewed and I'm very glad Quint is doing this.
Sept. 18, 2008, 12:18 p.m. CST
Yeah, Barbara Worth is a pretty good movie of a lame book. If you want to try some dramatic silents, here are a few I suggest. Tol'able David (also from director Henry King) has a surprisingly modern plot, imagine a silent Straw Dogs. Starring John-Boy from The Waltons. A Soviet film called Bed and Sofa is another real surprise, kind of a feminist comedy, I've also always suspected that it was one of the inspirations for Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. And the new silent Ozu set from Eclipse has three interesting Japanese comedy-dramas, the best being I Was Born, But, which is kind of a Japanese Little Rascals. Oh, and to hell with the complainers, can't they just click on something else?
Sept. 18, 2008, 12:19 p.m. CST
Before anyone asks, no I don't mean Richard Thomas is really in Tol'able David, it's about that kind of a character.
Sept. 19, 2008, 2:21 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
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