- Cinecon overview part 4: Film historian Joseph Yranski provides a brief look at several Cinecon titles, including The Poor Nut, with a brunette, squeaky-voiceless (i.e., silent), pre-stardom Jean Arthur; the early Alice Faye musical Sing, Baby, Sing; the early Gary Cooper (and Fay Wray) Western The Texan; and the early Frank Capra talkie Rain or Shine.
Cinecon movies: Hard-to-find titles featuring Jean Arthur, Alice Faye & Gary Cooper
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: The Poor Nut (1927), Sing, Baby, Sing (1936), The Texan (1930), Rain or Shine (1930), and Speedy (1928).
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.
The Poor Nut (1927)
In The Poor Nut (First National), Jack Mulhall is cast against type as a bespectacled, tousle-headed bookworm who falls in love with a picture of the college queen (Jane Winton) at another school, writing her letters about how he’s a Big Man on Campus. Unfortunately, she is so intrigued that she decides to go visit him. Future Best Actress Academy Award nominee Jean Arthur (The More the Merrier, 1943) is lovely as the the local girl truly in love with Mulhall’s character.
Directed by Richard Wallace, The Poor Nut is a real delight and probably my favorite silent at this year’s Cinecon. It has lots of track men in and out of running shorts, and what’s more, Jack Mulhall stays in character the whole film as a geek with a good body.
Also in the cast: Charles Murray and Glenn Tryon. Remade as Local Boys Makes Good (1931), directed by Mervyn LeRoy, and featuring Joe E. Brown, Dorothy Lee, Ruth Hall, and Eddie Nugent*.
* Apparently, no relation to J.C. Nugent and Elliott Nugent, authors of the 1925 play on which The Poor Nut is based.
Sing, Baby, Sing (1936)
It’s always a treat to see another Alice Faye feature – and Sing, Baby, Sing (20th Century Fox) also happened to be the first film appearance of the Ritz Brothers.
The movie has a wonderful backstage story, loosely based on the real-life exploits of John Barrymore and actress-wife Elaine Barrie [the couple were married in 1936], with Adolphe Menjou cast as the aging, hammy actor. Giving perhaps the best performance of this year’s Cinecon, Menjou has every Barrymore mannerism down perfectly.
Alice Faye is lovely, tuneful, and a joy to behold, as is the rest of the cast: Patsy Kelly, Tony Martin (Faye’s husband [1937–1940]), Ted Healy, and Gregory Ratoff. Director: Sidney Lanfield.
The Texan (1930)
Withheld for many years due to legal complications, The Texan (Paramount Pictures) is a remarkable Gary Cooper Western.
On the run for killing a crooked gambler, Cooper agrees to pose as the long-missing son of a Spanish grand-dame played by Emma Dunn. His eventual love for the old woman and his “cousin,” Fay Wray, lead him to double-cross his partner in crime. Visually stunning, The Texan deserves to be rediscovered.
Director: John Cromwell. Also in the cast: Donald Reed and Oscar Apfel.
Rain or Shine (1930)
The newly discovered silent version (made for the international market) of the early Frank Capra talkie Rain or Shine (Columbia Pictures) is a true gem.
Joe Cook reprises his Broadway role as a circus headman who at one point is forced to perform every single act – aerialist, juggler, etc. – on the show. Also from the original cast is restaurateur Dave Chasen as Cook’s half-witted assistant. In many ways the dialogue-less version is superior to the talkie, as it moves along at a breakneck pace, in addition to featuring a spectacular burning of the circus tents.
Also in the cast: Louise Fazenda, Joan Peers, and William Collier Jr.
Speedy (Paramount) replaced a 35mm print of another Harold Lloyd comedy, The Freshman, which was booked at three other venues for the weekend.
There is very little to say, except that Speedy is my favorite among Lloyd’s silent features. The print quality was exceptional; filmed totally in New York City for four months, it remains a fast and furious example on how great Lloyd could be.
Also in the cast: Ann Christy and Bert Woodruff, plus a Babe Ruth cameo. Director: Ted Wilde, who received an Academy Award nomination in the short-lived Best Comedy Direction category.
“Squeaky-Voiceless Brunette Jean Arthur + Early Alice Faye & Gary Cooper: Cinecon Movies” follow-up post:
“Squeaky-Voiceless Brunette Jean Arthur + Early Alice Faye & Gary Cooper: Cinecon Movies” review text © Joseph Yranski; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.
“Squeaky-Voiceless Brunette Jean Arthur” endnotes
Jack Mulhall and Jean Arthur The Poor Nut movie image: First National.
“Squeaky-Voiceless Brunette Jean Arthur + Early Alice Faye & Gary Cooper: Cinecon Movies” last updated in September 2022.