22 November 2007

"Crystal Girl"

"A moonbeam, a June beam - a rare Tiffany gem!

A flower, a bower, a new rose on the stem!"

So go the lyrics for the elaborate "Crystal Girl" production number depicted left, which served to kick off a series of Technicolor musical revue sequences in the now lost 1929 First National motion picture "Paris."

Directed by Clarence Badger, and starring stage legends Irene Bordoni and Jack Buchanan, "Paris" is one of a maddening clutch of missing (the term "lost" seems unduly gloomy and hopeless) musical films of 1929 and 1930 that would, were they still with us, serve to document a number of stellar stage performers of the 1920's at their peak --- before age, shifting public tastes, drastically changing musical forms and motion picture production codes would alter these personalities forever --- leaving us instead with later film work that, in most cases, barely hints at the qualities that so captivated audiences.

Fannie Brice, Ted Lewis, Sophie Tucker --- and, in this instance, Irene Bordoni, can all be seen today in later film work, but none of which has that beautiful immediacy --- that spark --- that captures these souls just as the twenties would fade out and the decade-long party was declared over, done with and which by the mid-30's would seem so distant as to appear a waking dream.

"Paris," which would serve as the screen debut for the films three leads --- Bordoni, Buchanan and Louise Closser Hale --- isn't a sought after or yearned for title in the way that, say, Brice and Tucker's "My Man" or "Honky Tonk" is --- and this is puzzling, for while "Paris" transfers the 1928 stage production and two of its stars to the screen virtually intact, the Brice and Tucker films were manufactured to create some sort of screen character in which the performers could utilize their special talents. "Paris," on the other hand, is pure and, it would seem, undiluted direct-from-the-bottle Bordoni, who merely stepped from the stage to the screen with nary a hiccup, dragging her hit Broadway success with her. Certainly, I'd rather all three films were available for evaluation --- but if I had to make the awful and impossible decision of choosing one to be discovered in a Glasgow cinema basement or an Arizona cave, it would be "Paris" --- if just for these reasons.

The stage production of "Paris" enjoyed a 195 performance run between October of 1928 and March of 1929 at New York City's Music Box Theater, with composers and lyricists Cole Porter, E. Ray Goetz, Walter Kollo, Louis Alter, Bud Green, Harry Warren, Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert providing the musical elements. (The fact that Porter's "Let's Do It - Let's Fall in Love" was the shows break out hit likely accounts for the fact that the production is generally --- but mistakenly --- thought of as a Cole Porter solo flight.)

By the time the stage run closed, film rights for "Paris" had been secured --- as well as cast members Irene Bordoni and Louise Closser Hale --- the former who was signed by Warners for $10,000 a week ("for three weeks") for work in both "Paris" and their forthcoming revue "Show of Shows."

While the stage version of "Paris" could be described as an intimate three-act musical comedy set entirely in a Paris hotel, the vision for the film version was to expand outward. The hotel setting was preserved for the production's book portion --- but Bordoni's revue performer character would be depicted in her element, neatly providing ready-made flash, color and spectacle for the film's Technicolor sequences.

Three of the stage production melodies would be retained (including Porter's "Don't Look at Me That Way") but, regrettably, the hit "Let's Do It" was dropped in one of those frequent head-scratch inducing decisions that dot many of the early sound film stage to screen transitions.

In full production by late summer of 1929, the Warner/First National publicity mill begins to churn, and we join newspaper readers, many of whom are getting their first glimpse of Irene Bordoni and --- for all, news of this forthcoming Vitaphone "rainbow of melody" due out just in time for the 1929 holiday season.

"Irene Bordoni, international singing comedienne, who will soon make her screen debut in the talkie version of her own stage play, 'Paris,' was born on the island of Corsica in Ajaccio, the same town where Napoleon first saw the light of day. Her great grandmother was the sister of Millet, the artist."

"When she was a youngster of 13, she disobeyed her mother and instead of coming directly home from school without loitering, she pranced into the Theater Varieties, in Paris, and asked the manager for a job. Thanks to her piquant beauty she landed one immediately in the chorus -- with a salary of what was equivalent in our money to 50 cents a week."

"One day during rehearsals, a quiet dignified little gentleman sat in the back row of the theater. He sent for the little Bordoni and asked her how she liked her work. She was radiant with enthusiasm which turned into excitement and surprise when he told her that she was far too pretty and talented to remain in the chorus long. He soon found a speaking role for her and she progressed rapidly. The quiet and discerning gentleman who discovered Irene Bordoni was George Halevy, the noted French writer."

"Before long, the name of Irene Bordoni twinkled brightly in electric lights in the various capitols of Europe. She had learned to sing prettily and she had the happy faculty of selecting musical numbers which were destined to be outstanding hits. Broadway producers were beginning to offer tempting contracts that called for English songs. In a short time she was not only able to speak English creditably, but what is infinitely more difficult, could sing English songs with as much charm and gusto as she did the French."

"In America she scored an instantaneous success in "Miss Information" a (1915) revue featuring Elsie Janis. Following this she was besieged with offers and she appeared in a number of successful American revues with Raymond Hitchcock, Sam Bernard, Alice Delysia and other stage notables. Her popularity grew and she became the star of her own company, appearing usually in an American version of a spicy French farce in which she sang songs both in English and French. Among her successes are "Little Miss Bluebeard," "Naughty Cinderella" and most recently, "Paris.'"

First National's ten reel, part-Technicolor screen version of "Paris" premiered in early November of 1929 and can be seen being booked into theaters as late as July of 1930, casting some doubt on the oft-repeated comfortable and easier to digest mantra that the film, like so many of these early musicals, were mild but quick hits in big cities and complete and utter flops in small towns across the country --- opening and closing within days, virtually run out of town by irate citizens.

Utilizing a rather worn but serviceable set of Vitaphone discs for the European export version of "Paris," along with printed scenarios and dialogue scripts, we can --- with some difficulty and a good deal of imagination --- "see" and hear the film today in an admittedly imperfect manner, but likely the only one we'll ever have.

In Excerpt 1, following the opening title theme, we are introduced to the stalwart Massachusetts icon of virtue, Mrs. Cora Sabbot (Louise Closser Hale) --- president of the Woman's Purity League, which is closing its weekly meeting in her New England homestead. Also in attendance is her son Andrew (Jason Robards) and his intended, Brenda Kaley (Margaret Fielding.) The members of the Purity League are reciting the group's motto: "Fighting for good with all our price, and may there be naught for us to hide --- and may peace and purity with us abide."

Mrs. Sabbot informs the League that her son Andrew is about to leave for Paris to study Architecture, and waves aside warnings from club members that Paris is a "very wicked city" by assuming a regal stance and reassuring the club (as well as herself) that "I'm sure my son will never forget that he is a Sabbot!" Fade-out.

"Paris" - Excerpt 1

Fade-in. In Excerpt 2, two months have passed and the location is now a plush hotel in the city of Paris, where hurried last minute preparations are underway to furnish a suite of rooms in a style befitting New England Purity because --- you guessed it --- Mother Sabbot is about to arrive to visit her son, and Andrew has some news to break that requires the appropriate setting. We are introduced to Harriet (Zasu Pitts) maid and confidante of the Parisian revue performer Vivienne Rolland (Irene Bordoni) as she tells Andrew "If anybody had told me two months ago, that Miss Vivienne would ever consent to marry a man like you -- and promise to give up the stage -- why, I'd have said they were crazy!" Andrew is equally skeptical of his good fortune when Harriet reminds him that "Miss Vivienne said she wouldn't consent to marry you unless your mother consented."

Andrew argues, "But she must, Harriet! She must! Don't you understand, that's why we are doing this, to please mother. We've got to make this place look as much like her Newton Center home as possible --- so now hurry up or we won't be ready to receive her when she arrives tonight."

"Paris - Excerpt 2"

Mother Sabbot arrives at the hotel, much the worse for her steamship and rail journey ("I'd be all right if the ocean would only calm down!" "Oh, that train, I don't believe it ran on the rail more than two-thirds of the way!") --- and with, much to Andrew's surprise, Brenda Kaley in tow.

Adding to Cora Sabbot's discomfiture is the monocle Andrew now sports ("This is the thing in Paris") and news of his alliance with Vivienne Rolland. Andrew offers some champagne or brandy as a reviver but Mrs. Sabbot recoils: "Judas! I suspicioned that you have been tempted to wallow in champagne and brandy! No! Liquor has ever passed my lips. No matter what I suffer, I will never make myself unconscious with alcohol!" And, as for Andrew being romantically linked to a French actress, "Since the first Sabbot stepped off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock, there has never been a disgrace in the family! You can't act this way without being ashamed in your heart -- Sabbots don't do such things! Oh Andrew, it is a complete degeneration of your moral fibre!"

Andrew weakly attempts to defend his actions --- and Vivienne too: "I adore Vivienne and I want to marry her. If you'd only get used to the idea it would be much more pleasant all around." Cora Sabbot will have none of it. "Get used to the idea of a Sabbot bringing home a french actress? singer? dancer? A what-not who doesn't speak our language?" Andrew counters, "Vivienne speaks English. How do you think I got to know her so well?" Mrs. Sabbot knowingly muses, "I've always understood the French could do a great deal with gestures."

"Oh mother, how can you form an opinion of Vivienne before you have seen her?"

"When I do see her, I'll tell her what I've told you: That I will not consent to this idiotic marriage!"

In Excerpt 3, reel two opens --- and Guy Pennell (Jack Buchanan) who is Vivienne Rolland's revue co-star, enters her hotel suite to await her arrival. Seating himself at her piano he sings one of the numbers from their revue, "The Land of Going To Be," and is soon joined by Vivienne who catches the melody from outside the rooms, takes it up and concludes the song with him at the piano.

"Paris" - Excerpt 3

We learn, without much surprise, that Guy has his own romantic intentions towards Vivienne and does his best to persuade Vivienne from leaving Paris and the show --- as well as him, but for Vivienne the path of duty is clear: "I don't want to take him away from his home, his family. He loves Paris, yes -- for a little vacation, but to live happy he must be at home in Newton Center. He is one hundred percent 'Must-you-choose-its'."

Guy departs, and in Excerpt 4, we hear a fragment of a telephone conversation between Andrew and Vivienne in which the pair exchange lovebird pleasantries and Vivienne is informed that the time has come to meet Mother. A frenzy of activity follows --- Vivienne must change into what she deems a suitably puritanical outfit -- while the actress barks commands at someone (who, it isn't clear --- save for the fact that his knowledge of French is nil) and is then comforted by her maid Harriet, who advises her "Now, now, don't get yourself all of a twitter. She will think all the more of you for keeping her waiting." A knock at the door! "Harriet. They have come. Please say that I will be very quick --- if I don't die!"

"Paris" - Excerpt 4

The meeting of Vivienne Rolland and Cora Sabbot is underlined by the fact that Mrs. Sabbot is still suffering the effects of her ocean and rail journey, and still refuses brandy. "But of course she doesn't like brandy," offers Vivienne, "I mean, she's a good American that respects the law."

Mrs. Sabbot pulls herself up. "I don't need Congress to say what's good for me and what isn't it!"

"Of course, you were surprised that Dede (Vivienne's pet name for Andrew) wants to marry with me?"

"Surprised is a mild word."

"Ah, but love is the biggest surprise of all. Yes, my life is very different from the life of you. But I have nothing to be ashamed for - nothing that can make Dede shame of you."

"Well, personally, I should be slightly ashamed to appear in public in a pound of spangles, two strings of pearls and a feather tail."

"Oh me, I don't like that costume either! First the manager want only the pearl and the feather, no spangle at all!"

Cora Sabbot faints dead away, and when she is revived, she finds herself in the company of Guy Pennell too --- who slyly plots to charm Mrs. Sabbot out of her shell and thereby warm her to the notion of her son's marriage --- even if it means losing Vivienne for himself.

Mrs. Sabbot is convinced to take a bit of nourishment --- tea, rich cakes --- but when Guy's order arrives --- raw oysters and sardine sandwiches, the poor woman faints away again the trio panics in an effort to revive her --- first with ammonia, then with a burning feather held under the nose, and finally by virtually force feeding her a massive dose of brandy. The old girl instantly springs back to life.

"Ah! You see? She is pretty already!" observes Vivienne. "Oh, I'm so glad that you are well again!," offers Andrew. And, as Guy slides an arm around her shoulders, "You did give us a fright. You see? In the future, always apply to good old Doctor Pennel!" The woman, clearly besotted with the dashing young actor, smiles radiantly, reaches for the brandy --- and three sets of hands scramble to bring it to her. End of Reel Three!

The first half of the fourth reel of "Paris" enacts what was commonly cited some of the film's most memorable non-musical elements, that of the transformation of Cora Sabbot --- with the aid of "medicine brandy" -- from a monstrous Puritan to that of a flirtatious coquette, a plot device which would be reworked and utilized with equal success in the 1934 Warners musical "Dames." Upon learning that the "medicine" was provided by Guy Pennell, Cora becomes even more a firm believer in modern scientific wonders: "If I had known what a splendid medicine brandy was, I would have taken it long ago. It's growing quite warm, isn't it?"

Mrs. Sabbot is invited to attend that evening's performance of Vivienne and Guy's revue, and the invitation is extended to Brenda Kaley as well. Mrs. Sabbot demurs, "Oh, I don't know... Brenda is so very young." Replies Guy, "If she is as young as you look this minute, she must have come to France in a go-cart." Purrs Mrs. Sabbot, "I'm afraid you're a very bad young man."

Fretting over her plain togs in the company of Parisian theater-goers, Vivienne and Harriet outfit her in a glittering cocktail gown with jacket ("But where is the cocktail that goes along with it?" asks Mrs. Sabbot hopefully) and she is soon poured into a taxi and whisked to the theater.

In Excerpt 5, the second half of the reel switches to Technicolor for the opening number of the revue, "Crystal Girl."

Excerpt 5

"Crystal girl - you are brighter than a pearl,
shedding light upon the world - like an iridescent pearl!
A moonbeam - a June beam - a rare Tiffany gem,
a flower - a bower - a new rose on the stem!
Crystal girl - setting every heart a-whirl,
winding like a silken curl - all around the world!
Forever and ever we pray that you may shine,
Crystal girl - you are so divine!"

In Excerpts 6 and 7, the Technicolor revue sequence continues with Vivienne Rolland's performance of "Don't Look at Me That Way," and one of Guy Pennell's two solo turns --- this one being "Miss Wonderful," a tune written especially for the film which enjoyed moderate success and which would be utilized in a number of other 1929 and 1930 Warner and First National films either as incidental background scoring or as a specialty number as in the famous 1930 one-reeler "Bubbles." Irene Bordoni and Jack Buchanan, Ladies and Gents...

"Paris" - Excerpt 6 and Excerpt 7

"Paris" reverts to monochrome hues for the dialogue sequence that follows, in which we learn that Cora Sabbot is a woman transformed -- due largely to the company of Guy Pennell and constant dosing of medicinal brandy. Motoring about Paris during the day --- nightclubbing the evenings away. Andrew, Vivienne, Brenda and Harriet are all equally dumbfounded by the change.

"I think she's gone out of her mind, Miss Rolland," says Harriet. "It was broad daylight before she got in last night. And her eyes! They were so wild! And her face was so red! And, she had been out alone -- with Mr. Pennell!"

"Well? Was it not better to be out all night with an actor than in with him?'

"And now she is talking of renting a flat so she can have more freedom. A flat over Harry's American bar!"

When we next see Cora Sabbot in the company of Guy Pennell, the pair are merrily imbibing spirits and -- much to Andrew's horror --- shooting dice on the hotel room floor while discussing Cora's racetrack winnings of 20,000 francs on a horse named Hot Lips. Guy Pennell waggishly recites: "There once was a lady called Sabbot. Whatever she'd want she would grab it. Everything you would think - from a man to a drink - a most reprehensible habit."

Vivienne takes Guy aside and lets him have it: "Oh Guy, what you do to Madame Sabbot? What you do? Listen, this business has got to stop. You have helped to make her human all right, but she is human enough now! You are finished with her -- completely. So now where you are concerned, it is over!"

Guy plays his ace. "Now look here, I've grown rather fond of Cora. Haven't you noticed it?" A disbelieving Vivienne asks, "You expect me to believe that you are in love with Madame Sabbot?" "Well, you want to marry her son and go to Newton Center, don't you?" counters Guy.

Incredibly, Guy and Cora announce their engagement --- infuriating, horrifying and nauseating Andrew -- and he turns on Vivienne, precisely as Guy anticipated he would:

"You'll never set foot inside that rotten theater again. You're through with the stage right now, and all its low associations. You'll never sing love duets with that despicable clown again. You're the future Mrs. Andrew Brayle Sabbot. That's what's more important."

Vivienne Rolland has her spotlight speech: "I am an actress, yes. My family was not very rich, not very grand, but they were decent people. We are not Mayflowers. But my mother and aunts and grandmother and great-grandmother --- they were nice women. NOT VAMPIRES. You say I must draw a line, well --- I have. And it is at Cora where I draw it." The scene ends with Andrew being tossed out of Vivienne's room -- and Vivienne slumping into her chair in tears.

Arriving at Excerpt 8, we're now at the bottom half of the seventh reel of "Paris," and the film returns to the Technicolor hued theater, for a duet between Vivienne and Guy of the song "Somebody Mighty Like You," sung here in French.

"Paris" - Excerpt 8

In Excerpt 9, which directly follows "Somebody Mighty Like You," we're presented with the film's title tune, "Paris" --- which is sprightly and memorable enough to transcribe here, as the lyrics are rather difficult to ascertain (and partially in French) in the surviving disc audio:

Chorus: "Oh Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle, Pour quoi?
You never go away - never go away, Pour quoi?
Vivienne: "I like the way you Mademoiselle me, completely, so sweetly"
Chorus: "We know what you want, know what you want to say!"
There's no other town, no other town so gay!"
Vivienne: "There is no one can even compel me - to stray from-
away from..."

All: "Paris, Oh where do they run to
when they want fun - to Paris, Paree!
Paris, they go for for the wine in, women and wine in Paris, Paree!
How how those beauties 'Qu'est que c'est' you -
How those cuties 'ooh-la-la-la' you -
Paris, where never a baby gives you a 'maybe' in
beautiful gay Paree!"

"Paris" - Excerpt 9

Excerpt 10 offers Irene Bordoni's rendition of "I Wonder What Is Really On His Mind?," while in Excerpt 11, we have another solo turn for Jack Buchanan in the form of "I'm a Little Positive Looking For A Negative," --- an eccentric toss away piece of song and dance, we'll tag this one as to be generous.

"Paris - Except 10 and Excerpt 11

A stinging exchange between Vivienne and Guy as the latter exits: "It's a good thing you are leaving the stage to marry Cora Sabbot, you were awful tonight." "Is that so? I thought you were more wonderful than ever. Well, I must make my table reservations. I have a supper engagement. Bye-Bye!"

In Excerpt 12, Vivienne Rolland performs an original medley written for the film in which she laments the fact that Paris has become so Americanized, and that even an old chestnut of a French melody ("My Souvenir") is now being performed with a Yankee air about it. She then points out Al Jolson's influence too, and in one of the film's brightest musical moments, sings "It All Depends On You" (from 1928's "The Singing Fool") in French as Al Jolson would --- replete with a "Mammy!" tossed in for good effect. Whether or not a black-face effect was utilized is mercifully unknown -- but, oh!

"Paris" - Excerpt 12

The Technicolor revue concluding segment opens with a chorus reprise of "Crystal Girl" and "Miss Wonderful," and then Bordoni returns for a vocal reprise of "The Land of Going to Be," which segues into "My Lover" (which ends with a remarkably effective and difficult vocal note by Bordoni) before morphing into a final reprise of "Paris" which wraps up the glittering finale with the entire ensemble massed upon the gigantic First National soundstage.

"Paris" - Excerpt 13

Vivienne returns to her room to find a massive arrangement of white roses from Guy, but when she learns that they are intended for Cora --- well, she decides to find out once and for all to whom his true affections are based. She instructs Harriet, "Go and get me some of those smoke pots that we use in the banquet scene --- you know!" "Smoke pots? What do you want with smoke pots?," asks an incredulous Harriet. "Oh, never mind but go and get them and be careful that nobody sees you. Go on!"

Harriet fetches the pots. "Good, now we will see who Mr. Guy thinks of first. Cora or me!"

The action here is unclear, but it would appear that after alighting the smoke pots in the wings and dressing room, panic ensues and instead of being rescued by Guy, Vivienne is scooped up by a fireman instead and brought outside, --- while Guy, clad only in his underwear and a top-hat, "rescues" a chorus girl in an enormous hat and another fireman is seen rescuing a girl wearing nothing "but a cake of soap." Some of the film's original dialogue survives in this sequence.

"Paris" - Excerpt 14

Andrew and Brenda arrive at the theater amidst the crowds that gathered to witness the non-fire, and it is clear that his attentions have now been firmly switched to the Newton Center local --- helped along by his sudden intolerance of all things French and un-puritanical, including Vivienne. Clearly, Guy's scheme has worked --- precisely as planned, save for one last key element, which unfolds as we listen to Excerpt 15 --- and read some of the dialogue originally contained within the film's closing scene --- set in Vivienne's hotel room, where Guy stands behind a dressing screen awaiting delivery of clothing, with a comfortably drunk Cora Sabbot in attendance as well.

"Vivienne, I wonder what Andrew will think of all this?" asks Guy. Replies Vivienne, "What he thinks makes no never mind. I have broken my engagement."

"Am I to understand you are jilting my future step son?"

Pipes up Cora Sabbot, "It seems as if you are losing everything at once. First Andrew -- and now I'm taking Guy away from you."

"Oh don't worry," responds Vivienne, "clowns are easy to find." The hurtful words, the events of the evening, and the thought of Guy marrying Cora finally get to Vivienne -- and she collapses in a faint.

It's now we learn the startling truth about Guy's plot!

Cora: "Poor child, she has been under such a terrible strain."

Guy: "Cora, what can I do? I simply can't tell Vivienne the truth -- that we framed this up merely to make her jealous. It's gone too far!"

Cora: "Guy, I know Vivienne loves you, and you've got to make her see that you love her. Kidnap her - hit her on the head - Anything to bring her to her senses."

A French accent voice from the sofa: "Ah, don't worry --- I never lost them. Ah, you have given yourselves away very nicely, my friends."

Vivienne and Guy embrace --- Cora beams happily, and the pair pull the not-so-monstrous woman to them as the film concludes, the end titles rise up --- and the exit music follows.

"Paris" - Excerpt 15 and Except 16 (Exit Music)

Yes, I know what you're thinking. The New York Times wasn't entirely satisfied with what they termed a "wobbly ending" either, but the review was largely positive save for an example of the public's slowly rising impatience with extended musical sequences that halted the plot --- sometimes for the length of an entire reel:

"As it so often happens the producers have outdone themselves in color and costumes to lend to the picture the cachet sumptuous or lavish. This, however, is responsible for halting the narrative, and one is only reminded that it still exists by periodical close-ups of Mrs. Cora Sabot. True, there are songs from Miss Bordoni during these colorful outbursts, for which the technicolor process is responsible, and they are well rendered, but even while Miss Bordoni is performing in these stage passages, one begins to wonder what has happened to some of the other characters and also what Cora Sabot is going to do next. It is quite obvious that these colored portions are stealing laughs from the show and, taking everything into consideration, one prefers the merriment to the pastel shades, at least as they are introduced in the raiment or a regiment of dancing girls and exotic scenery."

Time magazine found the whole affair to their liking, with their only annoyance being focused upon the below-par Technicolor print their reviewer had the misfortune to see --- a common problem that plagued the early musical output due to the Technicolor lab's inability to maintain quality while rushing to fill print orders.

"Irene Bordoni has given about 400 performances of 'Paris' on the stage. Since the director of a picture can retake parts he does not like, Paris as a talking film may be as good as the best performance of the 400. The sound device records satisfactorily one of the few female voices which can render U. S. songs with a French accent and remain bearable. The middle-aged stage comedienne Louise Closser Hale even makes funny the cinema role of a Newton Centre, Mass., matron who loses her inhibitions after one drink of cognac. In spite of occasional blurred color sequences, Paris is about as effective as the photograph of a musical comedy can be. Best shot: Zasu Pitts as a maid."

Although impossible to judge by ravaged sound discs and not so much as a surviving frame of footage, "Paris" apparently looked and sounded quite good --- with any of the imperfections that may have existed in "On With the Show!" and "The Gold Diggers of Broadway" having been largely eliminated. Studio generated publicity was anything but modest: "The summit of achievement in natural color photography is to be seen at the _____ Theater, when Irene Bordoni stars in 'Paris,' a First National picture adapted from her phenomenally successful stage play of last year."

"The Technicolor process has taken the motion picture world by storm within the last few months. Some of the most spectacular scenes of 'Paris' have been made by this process. They are dazzling; they are gorgeous; and they are superlatively beautiful. Thus, the screen has taken another long step forward in its task of holding the mirror up to Nature. For here at least is Nature in her own varied hues, faithfully reproduced and even intensified as a background for sparkling comedy and moving drama."

The 1929 film musical "Paris" certainly didn't serve as a mirror held up to Nature --- but as a mirror reflecting popular taste and modes of melody, comedy, dancing, fashion, stage presentation, choreography and even morality --- it was likely the one of the brightest and truest reflected visions of a decade that was about to exhale, collapse and wither away forever. Films like "Paris," and others of the day are more --- oh, so much more than mere movie musicals. They can educate and entertain equally --- and on a myriad of levels, no matter what your preference or area of study. Often scorned and sneered at as much as they are revered and praised, they are --- in the end, captured images and sounds of us as a people. Those titles that are lost, missing or merely mislaid are deserving of lamentation and attention as much as any precious historical document --- maybe even more so.

"I have a Land of Going to Be,
a castle in the air...
In the corner of my secret garden,
where each hope is a flower so fair.
And there, some day, I'm going to see...
my dreams at last come true.
But until then in my Land of Going to Be,
I'll be waiting, just waiting for you!"

And so, we wait. And hope.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bonus Jazzy Audio Excerpt!
Incidental Scoring Fragment - "Miss Wonderful"

"All Star Radio Revue"
December 25th, 1926

26 May 1926

4 November 1929

12 March 1929

The First All-Technicolor Musical Film

A Chesterfield, Pennsylvania Theater Manager
informs prospective audiences that
"Paris" is "60 per cent Natural Color"
27 March 1930

The Crystal Girl herself, Irene Bordoni
Chicago railway station - 1929



Joe Thompson said...

Jeff: I enjoyed your story of a movie I don't remember reading about. I hope someone finds a print.

Joe Thompson ;0)

Esteban Testino said...

Great review! Since I watched 'De-Lovely' a few years ago I've been in love with this mysterious, long missing musical.
Could you post the full lyrics to this picture's numbers? I would really appreciate it!