Dressed to Kill with Mary Astor, Academy Award-nominated Sorrell and Son and other rare movies at Cinecon 2005
There'll be rare movies aplenty at Los Angeles' mini-film festival Cinecon. For starters, apart from calamitous last-minute changes and cancellations, Cinecon-men and -women will be able to watch the 1928 gangster melo Dressed to Kill – no relation to Brian De Palma's 1980 thriller. Directed by Irving Cummings (co-director of the first “outdoor talkie,” In Old Arizona), and starring Edmund Lowe and future Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner Mary Astor, Dressed to Kill had the following tagline as per the IMDb: “A fascinating revelation of gangdom's evolution from the brass knuckled thugs of yesterday to the sleek haired 'Dressed to Kill' dandies of today.” (Image: Dressed to Kill Mary Astor.)
Another movie that can't be missed is the recently restored 1927 melodrama Sorrell and Son, a touching father-love tale that was a Best (dramatic) Direction Academy Award nominee (for Herbert Brenon) in the period 1927-28, the first year of the awards. Sorrell and Son stars a superb H.B. Warner (Jesus in Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings, made that same year) as the father who sacrifices it all for the love of his son (Mickey McBan as a boy; a much-too-powdered Nils Asther as a young man).
Also in the all-star cast are Alice Joyce, Mary Nolan, Louis Wolheim, and two great Bitches from Hell, Carmel Myers, as a mean-spirited married woman who has the hots for the chaste Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson, highly effective as the ex-Mrs. Sorrell, a selfish, money-hungry gal who loves her grown-up son just a little too much.
In addition, attendees will have the chance to watch the reconstructed – and scandalous – Baby Face (1933), now in its full amoral glory, with an outstanding Barbara Stanwyck as the girl who knows what she wants, and who has the determination, the brains, and the hot body to get it.
Here's another one: Ladies Should Listen (1933), about the romance between a switchboard operator (Frances Drake) and a businessman (a very young Cary Grant), with the added bonus of future Warner Bros. star Ann Sheridan in a bit part.
Norma Talmadge movie rarity
Also, the rarely seen Norma Talmadge vehicle The Wonderful Thing (1920). Norma who? you ask. Well, merely one of the biggest box office stars Hollywood has ever produced. The pretty and capable Norma Talmadge was a much-admired film goddess from the mid-teens to the late '20s, starring in numerous glossy melodramas of the period.
The Wonderful Thing, however, directed by Sorrell and Son's Herbert Brenon, is hardly one of Talmadge's best-liked vehicles. In the film, Talmadge plays the daughter of a millionaire hog raiser, ending up married to a poor – though titled – Englishman (Harrison Ford, no connection to the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark). The problem is, does the British nobleman love her or her father's money-making hogs?
Either way, the New York Times was unimpressed, asserting that The Wonderful Thing “might be the work of almost any of the many mediocre actresses and directors in the numerous studios between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.” Be that as it may, in 2005 a screening of a Norma Talmadge vehicle, no matter how “mediocre,” is something to be cherished by any silent film lover worth his nitrate.
[“Cinecon 2005: Sorrell and Son, Dressed to Kill Mary Astor” continues on the next page. See link below.]
Snippet from the New York Times' The Wonderful Thing review via Greta DeGroat's excellent Norma Talmadge website.
Dressed to Kill Mary Astor image: Cinecon.