Movie Diary 5/8/2023

Exit Smiling (Sam Taylor, 1926). The only silent film starring Beatrice Lillie, and a treat at Seattle’s Paramount theater last night. Many solid sight gags here (Taylor worked a lot with Harold Lloyd) and Lillie herself is an incredibly modern presence.

Stella Dallas (Henry King, 1925). Restored print, playing online via MoMA. Belle Bennett, a memorably earthy presence, plays the title role that later became a classic for Barbara Stanwyck and a non-classic for Bette Midler. (Yes, I had forgotten about that one, too.) Some expressive camerawork, both in motion (an unusual POV shot as male lead Ronald Colman walks past Stella’s rundown house before he meets her, Stella’s face gliding past as a blur) and stationary (the way the daughter slumps against the apartment door on the day when none of the other kids show up for her birthday party, a study in abject disappointment). Colman somehow looks older than he did in the 1930s, and he really needs his voice to bring the role to life; Alice Joyce needs no such help as the respectable woman he truly loves. Lois Moran is very sharp as the daughter, and was the inspiration for the Rosemary character in Tender Is the Night.


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