by Doctor Science
I'm working on a post for tomorrow or maybe the weekend which is hella depressing, so instead today you get: Today's Random Walk Through the Internet! Featuring: silent movies and self-directed women.
The glimpses of twenties life were so interesting that they not only fill in the holes in the plot, but sometimes overshadow it--the girls' crummy apartment, the goods sold inside the department store (and how they were run). The way Clara turns her uniform into an evening gown. The trip to the fun park, and how the girls were constantly tugging down their skirts, though the camera was clearly trying to catch them hiking up. The body language and cultural cues were fascinating.Never having seen Bow, only heard of her, I tracked down a clip:
I hadn't appreciated before how natural and charming Bow's acting was -- she seems much less artificial, to my eye, than the other silent actresses I've seen.
I wanted to compare Bow to a British actress of the same period, to see if Bow was as distinctively American as she seemed to me. I poked around a bit and came across the 1927 British movie Hindle Wakes, which also (like "It") involves a romance between a poor young working woman and a rich young man. So far, so conventionally similar.
Direct YouTube link.
I bet that rollercoaster ride had 'em screaming the house down in 1927 -- I felt a little queasy just watching it on YouTube.
I was staggered to learn, though, that Hindle Wakes has an absolutely unconventional ending:
ALAN: But you didn't ever really love me?Holy cow. A woman who has casual sex and isn't sorry! or in love! I can see why the play apparently didn't do all that well in New York, and why it was never made into an American movie -- but it's been filmed at least 6 times in Britain, 4 movies and twice for TV.
FANNY: Love you? Good Heavens, of course not! Why on earth should I love you? You were just some one to have a bit of fun with. You were an amusement -- a lark.
ALAN: (shocked) Fanny! Is that all you cared for me?
FANNY: How much more did you care for me?
ALAN: But it's not the same. I'm a man.
FANNY: You're a man, and I was your little fancy. Well, I'm a woman, and you were my little fancy. You wouldn't prevent a woman enjoying herself as well as a man, if she takes it into her head?
ALAN: But do you mean to say that you didn't care any more for me than a fellow cares for any girl he happens to pick up?
Another commenter at Sherwood Smith's said:
"Hindle Wakes" is remarkable both for its plot (and the film was an adaptation of a 1912 stage play!) and the Blackpool location shots, particularly considering how little it has changed. The opening footage of the ride up Blackpool Tower is almost identical to a video I shot during a visit to Blackpool in 2010 (the ferris wheel is in a different location today) and some of the amusement park rides seen on Pleasure Beach are still around 85 years later. Indeed, I have seen an almost identical scene of a young couple hooking up during a ride on the Big Dipper rollercoaster in a film from 1990, i.e. made 63 years later, though the couple in the latter film was interracial.It's interesting that the 1952 version apparently reflects 1950s moral scruples and an attempt to offer emotional justification for the affair. I don't know if "moral scruples" had become more pervasive among British working class women, or if the change more had to do with UK films reflecting American expectations about how stories should go. I don't know if even during the pre-Hayes days there was an example of an American movie where a woman has sex strictly for fun, and doesn't *want* to get married to anyone. Even Mae West ended up "together" with her leading men by the end of her movies.
Blackpool has a reputation as a town where young Brits (mostly working class, but across class borders as well) go for a few days of fun, which also includes no strings attached sexual flings. I find it quite fascinating that "Hindle Wakes" and its many adaptations indicate that this liberal sexual climate already existed in the far more sexually repressed 1910s and 1920s.
Looking up Stanley Houghton, author of the original play, led me to Annie Horniman. Annie was another self-directed woman, a tea heiress who used her money to start the first regional repertory theater in Britain.
It's difficult to figure out what Horniman was actually like by poking about on the tubes, because she was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a nexus of historical and ongoing wank of every description in which specific information is completely overwhelmed. It's not even clear if she was gay/straight/bi/asexual/other, but she doesn't *seem* to have had any particular life companion.
Wank, fannish definition:
A loud and public online argument, often involving many participants outside of the initiating members, and often devolving into side-taking, hyperbole, and personal attacks. Use of "wank" may especially indicate a debate which occurs over and over with nobody ever changing their minds.Those who have encountered Golden Dawn ... stuff ... will recognize the symptoms.