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Gaslight Follies

1945 Documentary Not Rated 78 Minutes

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This rarely-seen four-part documentary from legendary Hollywood producer Joseph E. Levine celebrates (and pokes fun at) the silent era. The first part, "Stars of Yesterday," profiles the biggest names of the era - including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Marie Dressler, Lon Chaney, Wallace Reid, Clara Bow, Mabel Normand, William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Lillian Gish, and Will Rogers - accompanied by selected scenes from some of their best films. It's followed by "Time Marches Back," a compilation of newsreel footage from the early days of cinema, with such wide-ranging topics as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Babe Ruth's record-breaking career with the Yankees, the formation of the motion picture studio United Artists, and women's fashions in the year 1905! Next is a twenty-minute excerpt from the otherwise lost 1935 film The Drunkard, starring James Murray, Clara Kimball Young, and Janet Chandler. A parody of silent movie cliches that were then considered outdated, it was later remade as The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940). Gaslight Follies concludes with the 1915 version of East Lynne starring Alan Hale, Sr., accompanied by a comical "narration" from radio performers Milton Cross and Ethel Owen. This rare, three-reel version of the classic Ellen Wood novel can only be seen as part of this compilation film (viewers who would rather not hear the satirical commentary are advised to turn the sound down!) Gaslight Follies is the first movie produced by Joseph E. Levine, kickstarting a long career that would see him serve as the American distributor of such films as Godzilla: King of Monsters! (1956), Hercules (1958) and Two Women (1960). He eventually produced classics of his own like The Lion in Winter (1968) and A Bridge Too Far (1977), in addition to serving as an uncredited executive producer on The Producers and The Graduate (both 1968.) Gaslight Follies came about when Levine met Maxwell A. Finn, who had amassed an amount of silent film footage and was planning on editing it into a feature (Using his real name, Max J. Rosenberg, "Finn" would later go on to found British horror movie studio Amicus Productions.) The positive response Gaslight Follies engendered temporarily panicked the major studios into worrying that dubbed-over silent films would become the next box-office sensation. Instead this technique was mostly relegated to television with programs like Silents Please! (1960-1962) and Mischief Makers (1960-1961).

Not Rated.