(Facebook-surfing can either be very boring, or. . . very boring. But I found something tonight. Then lost it, then found it again. It's an interview from this past spring for Humanities magazine, featuring everyone's favorite Italian uncle, Martin Scorsese. Then I get to the end of it and find a Lloyd double-whammy. OK, so when do I get the third one?)
LEACH: How big was the transition from silent to talkies? How did it affect comedies?
SCORSESE: It all became verbal. The comedy stars in the thirties were Laurel and Hardy, thankfully, and W. C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers. Then after the war or during the war, Abbott and Costello, which was really language, old vaudeville routines. And then postwar it’s Martin and Lewis, which was a kind of manic craziness and kind of reflection of the freedom after the war.
LEACH: Two foils.
SCORSESE: Yeah, exactly. But in the silent era, it’s all physical and visual comedy: Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charley Chase, all these people we’re restoring. There’s a lot of them that are being restored. It’s quite remarkable seeing these on a big screen.
Young people, when I show it to them, they ’ll ask, Do they talk in this movie? I say, they don’t talk in this one, but you might find it interesting. And they do.
LEACH: I’ll bet.
SCORSESE: The great silent dramatic films really worked extraordinarily well. I mean, they still do if you’ve seen them restored, meaning at the right speed, the right tint and color, because everything was in color, but toned and tinted. In any event, they did have their own international language. Murnau wanted to use title cards in Esperanto. He said, this is the universal language, cinema. And then when sound came in, it changed again completely.
LEACH: The movie industry is
presentation to the world in terms of public diplomacy. For instance, Charlie
Chaplin was truly universal. You didn’t have to translate it into any language. America
SCORSESE: Norman Lloyd, who was a great actor and producer, he worked with everybody: Hitchcock and Welles and Chaplin. He’s in his nineties now. He was just talking on television the other night on TCM, and he was saying that Chaplin is universal, probably the greatest, because he kind of told the story of the immigrant. And anywhere around the world people could identify with it.
LEACH: Well, we thank you.SCORSESE: Thank you.
(Post-blog revelation. Don't ask me how I find these things. The above shot of the demented old man in the Shriners fez really is Harold Lloyd hanging off the Space Needle in Seattle when he was something like 76 years old. I would've doubted my eyes except, when I looked closely at his right hand, I could see that it was missing thumb and forefinger. How and why he'd do this is anyone's guess, but maybe he was thinking in terms of going out with a big splash.)