Monday, July 03, 2006

"Life's unfair." So what else is new? Was thinking of this as i watched the restored films with Janet Gaynor. Very elaborate presentation. The Louis B. Mayer Foundation has funded a whole project in conjunction with several major film archives (MoMA, George Eastman House, UCLA, Netherlands Filmmuseum, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) to restore all extant films which starred Janet Gaynor. Of the 35 films in which she starred, 5 have been lost, but that leaves 30 in whole or part which survive. New prints have been struck, and the negatives have been restored. There's a booklet published by the UCLA Film and Television Archives that explains the process involved in the foundation's decision to retore these films with Janet Gaynor. That's all well and good, except for the fact that most of her films (such as "Sunrise" or "7th Heaven" or "Street Angel") have already been archived and preserved and restored. I went to MoMA to see "Sunrise", "7th Heaven" and "Street Angel", only to find out that there was a problem with shipping and the new print of "Sunrise" didn't arrive (instead, the new print of "State Fair" was shown; it's still a mess, with little glitches throughout, so that almost no scene is ever "complete"; my feeling that the 1933 version of "State Fair" will never be able to be completely restored was proven). What i didn't understand is why, if "Sunrise" didn't arrive, why MoMA didn't just drag out its own print?

I think any restoration project is worthwhile. But it's like the Warhol Foundation spending over $2 million to restore Warhol's films, but there's no money to restore all the work of Marie Menken and Willard Maas. Janet Gaynor's best films (the Borzage trilogy of "7th Heaven", "Street Angel" and "Lucky Star"; Murnau's "Sunrise"; the William Wellman "A Star Is Born") have been around (though the Borzage films are still waiting for transfer to DVD). But what about Nancy Carroll? Where is "Broken Lullaby", the one "serious" movie directed by Ernst Lubitsch, which starred Carroll in 1932? I remember seeing it in the 1960s, but it hasn't been around since. Is it now lost? What condition is that film in? And what condition is the negative in?

(One film i'm glad has been restored is "Ladies in Love" which turned out to be the first of the three-girls-hunting-for-husbands comedies put out by 20th Century Fox. I think it's the best of the batch, though once 20th Century Fox got a formula, they beat it into the ground. They took Rona Jaffe's "The Best of Everything" and changed it so that it became a three-girls-sharing-an-apartment story! "How to Marry a Millionaire" and "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "The Best of Everything" and "The Pleasure Seekers".... the other three-girls-hunting-for-husbands plot has the three girls as relatives, and that plot was used for "Three Blind Mice" and "Moon Over Miami" and "Three Little Girls in Blue". "Ladies in Love" has the best cast: Gaynor, Constance Bennett, and Loretta Young, and it's the most sophisticated and witty.)

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