Friday, January 11, 2019
It took me a long time to find a whole version of Lights of New York, the first full-length, all-talking talkie, because it was pulled off of YouTube a long time ago and now does not even exist as those wretched half-minute clips. I had to find it on one of those video sites - can't remember the name of it, damn! - and pirate a little bit of it, for which I was dinged on my channel for violating copyright. Every time I turn AROUND I violate copyright, and since my views average anywhere from zero to seven, I do wonder why YouTube bothers to persecute me when multi-million-view types get away with anything they want. (Money may have something to do with it.)
This is just excruciating, it really is. It's SO bad, sublimely bad, you can't believe it, so wooden, so stilted, somebody's idea of Movie Acting with Sound. Most of the movies of the late '20s were lifted from the stage, to make sure they were chatty and yakky and fairly static in motion. The microphone would be discreetly hidden behind a potted palm. I love to hear the hums and whirs and THUDS of early talkies, the sound of the camera barely disguised by putting it in a huge box (where the cameraman would nearly die of dehydration and heat stroke). Finally some brilliant boy realized they only needed to put the CAMERA in a box, but by this time most of the cameramen were already dead. That's progress for you.
It's excruciating trying to watch this whole thing, and I confess I didn't, but even this one scene is so brilliant, it's worth getting dinged or even taken to court for stealing valuable material. I mean. The worst line delivery in movie history? It's pure gold.
(Vimeo. It was Vimeo.)