- Cinecon overview part 3: Film historian Joseph Yranski provides a brief look at several Cinecon titles, including the sentimental Al Jolson musical Mammy; the largely forgotten drama The Menace, featuring a very young Bette Davis; and the humorous Douglas Fairbanks star vehicle The Mollycoddle.
Cinecon movies: Noteworthy attractions include the sentimental Al Jolson musical Mammy & a young Bette Davis in The Menace
Note from the Editor: In this five-part article, New York City-based film historian and researcher Joseph Yranski, formerly associated with the New York Public Library’s Donnell Media Center, offers a brief overview of various movies screened at this year’s Cinecon.
Included below: Mammy (1930), The Menace (1932), The Mollycoddle (1920), The Blood Ship (1927), Outlaws of the Orient (1937), and Outlaws of the Prairie (1937).
Held on Labor Day Weekend at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Cinecon is a film festival chiefly devoted to decades-old, hard-to-find U.S. releases.
Very little needs to be said about Mammy (Warner Bros.), except that it’s an Al Jolson feature – one with a rather wooden performance by Lois Moran.
I went to see this film only because of the UCLA restoration of the two-strip Technicolor sequences, cobbled together from a variety of sources. What made the experience worthwhile was their use of sepia tinting on the black-and-white bits missing their original color footage, a tactic that made the gaps in the color sequences less jarring.
Also in the Mammy cast: Best Actress Academy Award nominee Louise Dresser (A Ship Comes In, 1927–28), Lowell Sherman, and Hobart Bosworth. Director: Future Oscar winner Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, 1943).
The Menace (1932)
It was fun to see The Menace (Columbia), an early Bette Davis film that had been previously screened at Cinefest.
Directed by Roy William Neill, this British-set murder mystery finds Walter Byron traveling back to his ancestral home after undergoing full facial plastic surgery to uncover who really killed his father – a crime for which he had been sentenced to jail.
Natalie Moorhead is spectacular as the stepmother, bringing to life a super-stylish Deco villainess. Also in the cast: Film and stage veteran and eventual Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee H.B. Warner (Lost Horizon, 1937).
The Mollycoddle (1920)
Douglas Fairbanks plays a fop who is descended from a long line of heroes, so when smuggler Wallace Beery threatens Fairbanks’ girl (Ruth Renick), his true colors come through.
One of the star’s last non-swashbucklers, The Mollycoddle (Fairbanks | United Artists) is a lot of fun – and packed with excitement as well. I’ve seen it many times before, but in a great 35mm print it was a real treat. Directed by future Oscar winner Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind, 1939).
The Blood Ship (1927)
For their own private reasons, Richard Arlen and Hobart Bosworth agree to join the crew of a ship with a reputation for violence and death. Featuring lots of blood and guts, and an exciting finale, The Blood Ship (Columbia) is a good action tale with excellent footage onboard a period sailing vessel. Also in the cast: Jacqueline Logan, Walter James, and Fred Kohler. Director: George B. Seitz.
Outlaws of the Orient (1937)
Outlaws of the Orient (Columbia) is a typical B Western, except that it’s set in China: Jack Holt has to bring in an oil well in the Gobi desert, while Chinese bandits are trying to shut him down. It’s a likable but routine programmer. Also in the cast: Mae Clarke and Harold Huber. Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack (King Kong).
Outlaws of the Prairie (1937)
Outlaws of the Prairie (Columbia) is a solid B Western with Charles Starrett as a ranger who disguises himself as an outlaw to smash a stage-holdup gang. The movie is nothing “special,” but it was another beautiful print and a lot of fun. Director: Sam Nelson.
“Sentimental Al Jolson Musical + Early Bette Davis Drama: Cinecon Movies” follow-up post:
“Squeaky-Voiceless Brunette Jean Arthur + Early Alice Faye & Gary Cooper: Cinecon Movies.”
“Sentimental Al Jolson Musical + Early Bette Davis Drama: Cinecon Movies” review text © Joseph Yranski; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.
“Sentimental Al Jolson” endnotes
Thought lost until fairly recently, George B. Seitz’s The Blood Ship was screened alongside Joseph De Grasse’s Triumph, a 1917 release with Dorothy Phillips and Lon Chaney, at the October 2007 edition of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “Lost and Found” series.
Al Jolson and Lois Moran Mammy movie image: Warner Bros.
“Sentimental Al Jolson Musical + Early Bette Davis Drama: Cinecon Movies” last updated in September 2022.