Friday, May 18, 2012

Passionate Adventure - For the Love of Film III

Today's bonus post is by my good friend, fellow blogger and author of Hollywoodland, Mary Mallory.  Mary is also a photo archivist at the Margaret Herrick Library as well as being an expert on the Selznick empire.

Selznick Pictures was one of the top independent studios of the late 1910s and early 1920s. Owned and run by Lewis J. Selznick and his sons Myron and David, the company turned out high quality films starring the like of Constance Talmadge, Norma Talmadge, Clara Kimball Young, Owen Moore, Elsie Janis, and Olive Thomas. They released their films on a states' right basis, and as other companies established their own distribution companies, Selznick began having problems distributing their films into theatres. Stars such as the Talmadges and Young moved on, Thomas died, and cash flow became a problem.

Alice Joyce and Clive Brook

By 1924, the Selznicks were in bankruptcy and producing few films, acting mainly as a distribution company for quality, literate productions from both the United States and England. In fact, older son Myron had traveled to Europe to produce some of their films there. He hoped to produce Edward Montagne's "Dangerous Women" while in London, a story set there and in Monte Carlo, as the "Los Angeles Times" noted in April 1924. A gossip column in the August 6, 1924 "Los Angeles Times" put in perspective one of Selznick's main reasons for traveling to England; Marjorie Daw had split from Eddie Sutherland. As they stated, "You know, Myron Selznick always has admired Marjorie very much. I wonder.... ." Daw costarred in the Selznick film "The Passionate Adventure," produced and directed by Graham Cutts, starring Clive Brook, Victor McLaglen, and Alice Joyce, and featuring Alfred Hitchcock as writer, art director, and assistant director.

The film was based on Frank Stayton's book "The Passionate Adventure," which ads by The Century Company in the September 14, 1924 "New York Times" called, "The liveliest novel that has come out of England in many months." Sounding like a combination of post traumatic stress syndrome and a reverse "My Man Godfrey," "The Passionate Adventure" is the story of a London exquisite, the husband of a lovely wife and the possessor of ample wealth, who comes back from the World War so changed psychically that he feels compelled to spend part of his time in that city's darkest slum section. He lives among thieves and murderers as one of them and is the object of a beautiful pickpocket's fiercely loyal love. It is a remarkably readable novel."

Daw spoke to the "Los Angeles Times" in March 1925 about working in England. She noted that American producers had signed both Brook and McLaglen after noticing their work in her film and several others. Daw stated that foreign producers copied American ideas and were producing films in the same efficient manner as American studios, but were seriously handicapped "..because they have no climate even suggestive of Southern California." The weather delayed production of the film but overall she considered it a pleasing adventure.

The film opened in June 1925 in New York City at the Loew's Lexington. "Variety" called it "...a serious sex play of high order in that the direction and action seem both concentrated on the story itself rather than the proposition of emphasizing whatever of sex is contained therein...For a British production, this is up to the American standard of high-grade program releases. The direction is excellent, the continuity air-tight, and the acting up to scratch." The review noted that the title was based on a saying of Oscar Wilde's "that passion is the only serious thing in life." They also stated that "It is a high-grade film for high-grade audiences... ."

Myron Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock obviously enjoyed each other's company, as the still notes their playful attitude towards each other. Selznick kept in touch with the director, particularly with his growing English success in the early to mid 1930s. Selznick suggested that the director should move to America for better opportunities, recognition, and pay, with Selznick representing him as agent. This correspondence finally bore fruit when Hitchcock moved to America in 1939 to work for Myron's brother David at Selznick International Pictures, with Selznick acting as agent.

Myron Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock
For the Love of Film is a fundraising blogathon hosted by The Self-Styled Siren, Ferdy on Films and This Island Rod. I am honored to be a participant for such a worthy and noble cause. If you like what you've been reading, or not, please consider making a donation to the NFPF to help reach the goal of making what remains of the 1923 film The White Shadow available for online streaming. Any amount is a welcome and is tax deductable. Be it $5, $10, $20 or $100, no amount it too small to help reach the goal of $15,000. Donate Here or hit the pic of Hitch or the donatation button to the right. By all means, just donate!

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