Thursday, March 2, 2017

On the Grapevine: Open All Night (1924)


In this space in January, I did a review of the Grapevine Video release of Paths to Paradise (1925)—an unsung silent comedy gem starring Raymond Griffith and Betty Compson.  Since this week’s movie in TDOY’s silent spotlight, Open All Night (1924), also features the dapper Mr. G, I thought I'd preface my remarks by letting those interested know that Grapevine has made Paradise one of its new Blu-ray releases.  Despite my intentions to economize around Rancho Yesteryear, I ponied up the necessary scratch to purchase a copy of the Paradise Blu-ray…persuaded by the news that I could get it at a nice discount since I had previously bought the DVD.  (Yes, I know—I have no will power.)

Open All Night, inspired by the short stories of author Paul Morand, features Griffith in a small supporting role.  The plot is more focused on Therese (Viola Dana) and Edmund Deverne (Adolphe Menjou), a married couple residing in the Eternal City.  Therese loves her mild-mannered husband…but to paraphrase poet laureate Joanie Summers (Johnny Get Angry), she wants a brave man…she wants a cave man.  Her good friend Isabelle Fèvre (Gale Henry) has a solution: Therese needs to check out cyclist Petit Mathieu (Maurice “Lefty” Flynn), who’s competing in the six-day bicycle race at the Cirque d'Hiver (Winter Circus).  Mathieu is muy macho.

At the same time Therese is batting her eyelashes at Petit, husband Edmund meets up with Mathieu’s girlfriend, Lea (Jetta Goudal), in a nightclub…and falls mahdly in love with her.  (Ah, Paris…)  What will happen when the two mismatched couples meet up again at the Cirque d’Hiver?  Well, I’m not spoiling anything—you know it’s bound to happen—but as I say often around TDOY, “Let the wacky complications ensue!

Okay, I’m going to spoil this much for you: Open All Night is not all that wacky.  It’s Lubitsch-like romantic froth; Facebook compadre and Raymond Griffith historian Bruce Calvert correctly describes the picture as “a romantic dramedy that claims that women like a man who treats them roughly.”  (That should go over big when it’s Movie Night at the battered women’s shelter.)  It’s still a diverting little truffle featuring fine performances from the players; it was scripted by Willis Goldbeck (New York Times critic Dave Kehr speculates that Howard Hawks, Night’s production supervisor, might have also had a hand in the screenplay) and directed by Paul Bern—who’s perhaps better known as the ill-fated first husband of Jean Harlow.

Because Raymond Griffith handles the comic relief (assisted by Gale Henry—who works magic with what little she’s got), his participation in Night is reminiscent of that in Miss Bluebeard (1925), previously reviewed here on the blog.  Griffith is Igor Romano, Henry’s “protégé,” introduced in a running gag as “the next movie sheik” (a little in-joke in that Paramount, the studio that released Night, had recently lost Rudolph Valentino due to a contract dispute).  This topical bit would get a little tiresome were it not for the fact that when Henry introduces Ray to a gendarme with this announcement, the official asks for an autograph and then kisses Raymond on both cheeks.  (Griffith has this priceless “Did-what-I-think-happen-happened?” look on his face in response.)  By the time a second policeman gives Griffith the same treatment, the “sheik” removes his coat and is ready to scrap.  Just before the end of Night, a headline announces Valentino’s return to the studio—and when he’s asked by the cop what he’s going to do now Griffith cries out “Doug!” as he bares his teeth in Fairbanks fashion.

There’s no question that Griffith walks away with Open All Night; two bits made me give out with the hearty guffaws—the first has Raymond’s character staggering out in the middle of the bike riders’ course and he winds up having his cape snatched away by one of the cyclists.  A couple of beats later, the cape has returned to him when they go around again.  Griffith’s cape figures in the second laugh-out-loud gag; having “liberated” a breakfast tray brought to Flynn by his manager (Fritz Lang favorite Károly Huszár, billed as “Charles Puffy”), Raymond is all set to tuck in but his cape keeps getting in the way.  When Griffith gets up to remove this hindrance, Huszár retrieves the tray…and when he sits down only to see that his repast has vanished, Griffith simply takes the napkin tucked under his chin and nonchalantly wipes his mouth.  (I loved how subtly Griffith executed this.)

The (always reliable) IMDb says Open All Night runs 65 minutes…but the Grapevine version clocks in at just a little over an hour, so the company included an amusing one-reel comedy, Three Tough Onions (1928), as a bonus.  It’s one of Educational’s “Cameo” comedies, starring Monte Collins (working here with director Jules White, who later supervised Monte’s antics at Columbia) as a newlywed who needs to follow in Adolphe Menjou’s Night footsteps and show a little gumption—the “Onions” in the title refers to his bride (Estelle Bradley) plus her ma (Catherine Parrish) and brother (Robert Graves), who have decided to move in with the couple.  No great shakes, of course, but there are some nice bits (Graves is an amateur juggler who manages to break all the crockery in the joint) and Collins is his lovably exasperated self.

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