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Early Alfred Hitchcock Movies Need Restoration, Louise Brooks & Richard Arlen in 'Beggars of Life'

Ivor Novello, The Lodger, Alfred Hitchcock
Anny Ondra, Blackmail, Alfred Hitchcock
Two early Alfred Hitchcock British efforts: Ivor Novello in The Lodger (top); Anny Ondra in Blackmail (bottom)

“Rescue the Hitchcock 9” is the name of a campaign by the British Film Institute to save nine Alfred Hitchcock silent films, among them Blackmail (1929), shot as both a silent and a talkie.

“Be part of the challenge to bring these rare films back from the brink and into the digital age to be enjoyed by everyone,” urges the BFI website.

Also from the BFI website:

Curators of the BFI National Archive have identified a collection of films in desperate need of restoration with nine of Alfred Hitchcock's early silent films being the first to seek rescue through the Support the BFI campaign.

Hitchcock's nine surviving silent films are among the most important in British cinema history. But decades of wear and tear have left them in urgent need of restoration.

The nine features in question are:

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
The Lodger (1926)
The Ring (1927)
Downhill (1927)
Easy Virtue (1927)
The Farmers Wife (1927)
Champagne (1928)
The Manxman (1929)
Blackmail (1929)

As an aside: in the talkie version of Blackmail, Anny Ondra, born in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was dubbed by the very British Joan Barry.

Photos: bfi

Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Beggars of Life
Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Beggars of Life

William A. Wellman's 1928 silent classic Beggars of Life, starring Wallace Beery, Richard Arlen, and Louise Brooks, will be screened at the 23rd edition of The Hollywood Heritage's “Silents Under the Stars” at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura, northwest of Los Angeles. Michael Mortilla will provide live musical accompaniment.

Though hardly a masterpiece, Beggars of Life is an interesting melodrama (with comedic touches) featuring the iconic Louise Brooks as a young woman who attempts to pass for a boy (major suspension of disbelief required) in order to flee the country after killing her abusive stepfather.

Richard Arlen, who the year before had starred in William A. Wellman's World War I drama Wings – the first movie to win a Best Picture Oscar – plays Brooks' romantic interest.

Future Oscar winner Wallace Beery's characterization as a scraggly hobo is surprisingly subdued (for Beery, that is); in fact, it probably ranks among the actor's best.

By then, Beery had been working in movies for more than a decade, mostly in villainous and other supporting roles. In Beggars of Life, he came into his own, using his ugly, battered face and vulgar, rowdy personality to good effect. A stellar career at MGM would follow a couple of years later.

Beggars of Life will be preceded by a “surprise short.” For more information, call (805) 370-2301.


         
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