Monday, December 20, 2010

TALKIES END POPULARITY ABROAD



By Luella O. Parsons
Hollywood, May 1

No more glamorous screen personalities to Europe~ No more favorites who have all the foreign-speaking countries paying homage to their art! Gone are the days when Germany knelt at the small feet of Gloria Swanson and Norma Talmadge and Italy cried “Viva la Marion Davies” and a few more good old Italian phrases for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The talkies are responsible for this change to movie topography.

The war, in other words, changed the map of the world, but the talkies did more. They changed the entertainment for people from Jericho to Timbucktoo. Gloria Swanson, who used to travel with a whole bodyguard of protectors, walked into St. Moritz for the winter sports and nary a soul knew our glorious Gloria. New faces and new stars had been seen at the local theaters.



I talked over this very situation with Adolphe Menjou. He is back from picture-making in London, and no one is more observant than Mr. Menjou, who is one of the most intelligent men in pictures.

He had a breakfast-luncheon of wheat cakes and sausage at my house and in between times we talked of the conditions abroad since the talkies changed everything.

I asked him if London is developing its own stars to meet the talking picture exigencies.



“Only two British stars stand out as favorites,” said Mr. Menjou, “and they are comics. Ralph Lynn and Tom Walls, he told me, are to London what Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are to America. The English public adores them and if you have seen them you can understand this popularity.



Adolph paid homage, also, to the art of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. “London,” he told me, “is flocking to see ‘The Shanghai Express’ Dietrich is, today, one of the greatest drawing cards abroad. As for Garbo, if she plans to travel about Paris incognito, she is doomed to bitter disappointment. Garbo is today a figure as great as any national hero. She will be mobbed in Paris.”

Mr. Menjou is too modest to admit that he is one of the few stars who have survived the talkies. He speaks all languages fluently and for that reason is today as popular in Spain, France and Germany, as he was before the talkies made so many dramatic changes.



“This dubbing-in business,” said Mr. Menjou, “will not work out satisfactorily. You cannot get a $100 a week girl to speak the lines for our $5000 a week stars. The personality of the voice cannot be ignored. Norma Shearer’s voice has its own appeal, so has Marion Davies’ and Mary Picford’s. To put someone on to speak foreign lines for them is exceedingly foolish.”

I asked Mr. Menjou to tell me if this English invasion into motion pictures needs to be taken seriously.

“England,” he told me, “is making more pictures than at any time since the beginning of the movies. But the studios are not equipped to handle big productions. There is only one stage to a studio, and you that won’t go far in today’s screen production.”



Mr. Menjou is authority for the story that Rex Ingram, handsome Irishman and director, is playing the lead in his own picture, “Baronne.” Ingram, said Mr. Menjou, is spending $400,000 on this picture. He needed tanned characters, so he sent his whole company to Nice to acquire a natural sunburn before the picture went into production.



Chaliapin, noted opera singer, is being starred in a foreign picture to cost an enormous amount of money. France is sponsoring this number and the bookings are already pouring in, according to Mr. Menjou, who talked with the producers of this big number.

One of the biggest successes among the English-made pictures is a labor drama produced to show the conditions in the coal mines.

3 comments:

Francy Flicks said...

Great article! Such an interesting time in film history.

http://francyflicks.blogspot.com

billy said...

when I was a little kid I would think that Adolph Menjou was a man of the world. So classy and debonair. A real man of the world! But as I got older , I came to realize that he was from Pittsburgh! Pittsburgh? Either way he will always go down as on of the greats.

GAH1965 said...

That's the magic of the movies, billy. On the 1920 census, Menjou is 29 years old and living with his widowed mother in an apartment in Brooklyn, working as an assistant manager at a "moving picture" house. I still think he's turned out quite debonair, however.