Forgive moviegoers in the fall of 1928 if they were a mite confused over what to see. Not only could they find up-and-coming Carole Lombard in a supporting (and antagonistic) role in Pathe's "Show Folks," but about that time MGM released a film starring Marion Davies and directed by King Vidor called "Show People," a first-rate satire of Hollywood aided by William Haines in a supporting role and cameos from the likes of Charlie Chaplin:
Then to add to the confusion, First National put one of its stars, kewpie-doll-come-to-life Alice White, in something titled "Show Girl":
(This is not to be confused with her 1930 talkie vehicle, "Show Girl in Hollywood.")
We bring this up because the '28 "Show Girl," lost for decades, has been brought back to life...somewhat. It was unveiled last week at a silent film festival after work was done on restoring the visuals:
However, according to Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project, the jazz-oriented soundtrack has yet to be fully coupled with the images, so the premiere ran with piano accompaniment. The complete version should premiere sometime in 2016, and I hope it's as much a wow as another First National restoration, Colleen Moore's "Why Be Good?" We look forward to its full restoration.
I hope most of you have seen "Show People," rightly regarded as Davies' finest hour on screen. But relatively few have viewed "Show Folks," and "Show Girl"? Well, if you caught it the first time around, you're probably in your nineties. So let's see how those two films were received back in the day in a small, but influential publication of the time, the Hollywood-based Film Spectator. Here's what its president and editor, Welford Beaton, had to say about "Show Folks" in its Nov. 10, 1928 issue:
According to Lombard biographers, Paul Stein was the director who couldn't resist putting his paws on places of Carole where he had no right to, thus leading to Lombard learning inventive invective from her brothers as a defense mechanism.
And here's a bonus -- Beaton's review of another Lombard Pathe production, "Ned McCobb's Daughter" (the most recent of Carole's "lost" films):
Welford wasn't the only Beaton providing reviews in the magazine. So did his son Donald, 18 at the time, in a cdlumn called "As They Appeal to a Youth." Here's what he had to say about "Show Folks" -- and just below, his comments on "Show Girl," a film his dad didn't yet get to:
A pretty good writer for a teenager, doncha think? Alas, Donald apparently died in May 1931 at age 20 (don't know the cause), and his father outlived him by another 20 years.