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James Wong Howe: Articles


'Desert Nights': Enjoyable John Gilbert Adventure Dares to Ask Age-Old Philosophical Question

Desert Nights with John Gilbert and Mary Nolan: Enjoyable Sahara-set adventure – which happened to be Gilbert's last silent film – dares to ask the age-old philosophical question, “Is there honor among thieves?” John Gilbert late silent adventure 'Desert Nights' asks a question for the ages: Is there honor among thieves? The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release Desert Nights arrived in theaters at the tail end of the silent era. By 1929, audiences wanted lots of singing and dancing – talkies! And they might have been impatient to hear John Gilbert's speaking voice. I can't tell whether sound would have improved it or not, but Desert Nights has a lot of title cards filled with dialogue. Directed by the prolific William Nigh,[1] the […]


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'Desert Nights': Enjoyable John Gilbert Adventure Dares to Ask Age-Old Philosophical Question



'Sorrell and Son' 1927 Movie: Adult Themes in Oscar-Nominated Father-Son Drama

'Sorrell and Son' with H.B. Warner and Alice Joyce. 'Sorrell and Son' 1927 movie: Long thought lost, surprisingly effective father-love melodrama stars a superlative H.B. Warner Partially shot on location in England and produced independently by director Herbert Brenon at Joseph M. Schenck's United Artists, the 1927 Sorrell and Son is a skillful melodrama about paternal devotion in the face of both personal and social adversity. This long-thought-lost version of Warwick Deeping's 1925 bestseller benefits greatly from the veteran Brenon's assured direction, deservedly shortlisted in the first year of the Academy Awards.[1] Crucial to the film's effectiveness, however, is the portrayal of its central character, a war-scarred Englishman who sacrifices it all for the happiness of his son. Luckily, the […]


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'Sorrell and Son' 1927 Movie: Adult Themes in Oscar-Nominated Father-Son Drama



'The Prisoner of Zenda' 1937: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Centennial Academy Screening

The Prisoner of Zenda 1937 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. vs. Ronald Colman. A leading man in the early 1930s, mostly playing obnoxious or lackluster characters in forgettable fare such as Loose Ankles and I Like Your Nerve, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. reached one of the peaks of his career – perhaps the peak – in a supporting role: as Rupert of Hentzau in the David O. Selznick production of The Prisoner of Zenda, directed by John Cromwell and starring Ronald Colman in a dual role. Unfortunately, Fairbanks Jr. would go back to playing heroes, at times – e.g., The Corsican Brothers, The Exile – in roles that a couple of decades earlier would have gone to his father, silent era superstar […]


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'The Prisoner of Zenda' 1937: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Centennial Academy Screening