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at the theatre I occasionally go to. I told), all go to the movies every evening suppose it will not particularly hurt the at seven o'clock. I think that is a little babes in arms: the theatre is better ven- exaggerated, perhaps, but there is no tilated, probably, than their own homes. doubt that they go very regularly. The boys and girls from eight to sixteen Perhaps it is unfortunate. Perhaps the are the real problem. Even so, I should undergraduates of fifteen years ago want to be very sure how their parents were better off. But before I admitted would otherwise provide for their leis- that, I should like to be sure that the ure, before I condemned this particu- undergraduates of fifteen years ago read lar way. I do think that, for those of us Shakespeare or discussed metaphysics who are trying to bring up our child- at seven o'clock in the evening. I am ren sanely and wisely, the movies are very much from Missouri in this matter. an obstacle, especially in a small town where the posters are flamboyant and unavoidable. The children beg to go. You can deal with the circus and the All this sounds like defense of the Hippodrome — things that have to be movies, which I have admitted to be succumbed to only once a year. But vulgar. Let us look at this special vulwith three different matinées a week, garity a little. When a good novel, say, all the twelve months, it is harder. is dramatized, it is practically always Every now and then there is a picture vulgarized. You cannot put a work of that they may as well see: something art into a different medium without, spectacular in the right sense, travel- to a large extent, spoiling it. Especially and-animal things, Alice in Wonderland a work of art which has been wrought or Treasure Island. When once they out of words cannot be put into a wordhave been, they want to go again. But less medium without losing a great deal. that is up to the careful parent. The great faults of the picture play, I
I admit, too, that boys and girls, seem to make out, are two: sensationyoung people in general, who never did alism and sentimentalism. I read, the read the literature I have referred to, other day, in a motion-picture magaare now movie fans. The picture palace zine (two weeks' allowance for that, is not the haunt of the proletariat sim- alas!) the following statement, made by ply. By no means. The taste of the a big producer: 'We would not have young is likely to be to some extent cor- dared, five years ago, to use one hunrupted. But again, what would they dred and fifty feet of film with only be doing if they did not go? We must mental movement in it.' I take it that not be foolish enough to think that the they are stressing 'mental movement' movies are the only difference between increasingly. Even so, you cannot phoour generation and theirs, or that the tograph mere psychology indefinitely. well-brought-up young thing, if movies When I hear that Joseph Conrad is were out of the way, would be cultivat- going to devote himself to writing for ing his taste in the fashion his grand- the movies, I wonder greatly. Lord Jim parents would have approved. The in the pictures would not be precisely film-play may be a step down for some, Lord Jim, would it? But I have gathwhere it is a step up for others; but I ered also from the magazine for which am cynical enough to believe that, if son's allowance was spent, that the cry a generation feels like stepping down, is more and more for original plays, not it will do so. The undergraduates of for dramatizations. On the whole, that Princeton, for example (so I have been may be a good thing. Now and then
a particular novel lends itself special- Henry James is an extreme instance; ly to the filming process: as you read but imagining The Awkward Age on the the novel itself, you can see its mani- screen will give you an idea of the diffifest destiny. But, generally speaking, a culties of filming any book whatsoever good novel loses immensely. A large that depends to any extent on slow and part of the work of the novelist consists subtle delineation of character. For of creating human beings. What they the sake of the argument, suppose The say and what they think are as impor- Awkward Age to be taken over by a tant as what they physically do. And producer: Mrs. Brook and Vanderbank there is a limit to the mental movement would have to be sacrificed at once; you that can be conveniently or even wisely would have to give them at least one registered. But to say that novels are scene which showed them to be lovers. usually vulgarized in screen-versions Mrs. Brook's wail, “To think that it's is not necessarily to damn screen-plays. all been just talk !' could hardly be got The dramatized novel does not, for across to a movie audience. The scene that matter, usually make a good play at Tishy Grendon's, where Mrs. Brook on the real stage. The technique is 'pulls the walls of the house down'other; the same points must be differ- what could you do but show little Aggie ently made and differently led up to. as a definitely abandoned creature? There are exceptions, of course; but The close-up of a French novel would certainly the best plays are those that not turn the trick. How on earth could were written as plays. And I fancy the you explain Vanderbank - in a movie
— best movies will be those that were — without sacrificing Nanda ? The written as movie-scenarios. Certainly, Awkward Age is perhaps the extremest if Mr. Conrad is to devote himself to possible case, but any producer who film-making, I hope it will be by writ- dramatizes a serious novel is confronted ing new scenarios, not by helping them with some of these problems. Even the to adapt Victory or The Rescue.
concession of a hundred feet of mental This vulgarization of books in the movement' will not atone for the neprocess of making films of them is, I cessary violence done to psychology. dare say, pretty nearly inevitable. In Thereare books where psychology bears, any novel that tempts the producers at almost every turn, visible fruit; so there are sure to be one or two big that, going from scene to scene, the scenes that are admirably adapted to spectator can make out for himself the pictorial presentment. (The rare novel underlying shifts of mood. But these of the picaresque type — alas, that we books should be sifted from those that have so few! — really cries out for the pursue a different method. screen.) But most of the preparation for On the other hand, some great novels those scenes, most of the preliminary would lend themselves better to the stuff that gives them their significance, screen than to the stage. Vanity Fair, is not transferable to celluloid. Some- for example – or so I imagine. Exthing has to be substituted for the un- ceeding violence was done to Vanity pictorial bulk of the book. The natural Fair when it was turned into the play way is to stress minor episodes, make Becky Sharp. It was not Becky, it striking scenes out of quiet ones, exag- was not Thackeray, it was not Vanity gerate mental movement into physical Fair, it was not anything. But I can movement. Often sauce piquante has imagine a film version of the book that to be added out of hand. At times a would be something — if the producer delicate situation has to be made crude. were willing to spend enough money on
it. The fault of the play was that it had plays, I fancy that is because the makto confine itself to a few scenes, and ers of them are still feeling for the right the epic quality of Becky's life was convention. It is too new an art for its lost. What the screen can give us, if it laws to have been completely tabulated. chooses, is the epic quality. But that is I think people must get away from the for the future. It means, too, very care
idea that the movie scenario is at all the ful selection of subject.
same thing as a play; or that any good The vulgarization of the novel, in book can be made into a good film. I do screen versions, is almost inevitable, not mean by this that the material of save for a chosen few, as I have tried screen plays is restricted. I do not think to indicate. But vulgarity is there, it is, any more than that of any other even in the original plays. Again, I genre. But I believe that there is still
I fancy that is not so much a matter of a great deal to learn about the proper necessity as of the easiest way. People exploitation of this new medium, and have been so pampered by 'stunts' on that a great deal of the vulgarity of the screen that they expect, they des films comes from too narrow a view of mand, thrills. The drama of real life is what can be done and too great ignonot apt to be expressed in quick geta- rance, as yet, of how to do it. The danways over roofs, leaps from cliff to cliff, ger is that the easiest way will prevail, or even the achievement of freedom by and that the moving-picture art will means of a racing car. But those make degenerate before it has had a chance to a convenient way to thrills. Contrasts, grow up. The plea that the movie auditoo, — just because the moving picture ence can understand nothing that is not is such an excellent medium for them,- emotionally cheap and easy is ridicuare overdone. Too much is pushed off lous. A large number of our immigrants on them; they are made too crude, too have been used to better stuff, draviolent. The chance for vivifying con- matically, than Broadway gives them. trasts — whether of past scenes with Shakespeare knew perfectly, you may present, or of character with character, be sure, how successfully Hamlet would or of one person's background and situ- hit the groundlings. He was just as ation with another's - is one of the consciously writing great melodrama moving picture's greatest assets, artis- as he was consciously writing great tically speaking. As is also lapse of poetry. The movie audience that surtime, that most difficult thing in the rounds me when I go is not, for the world for the novelist to manage grace- most part, a cultivated or an educafully and plausibly. Juxtapositions and ted audience. But it prefers the better antitheses (“antithesis is the root of all movies to the worse ones. And I think style'), which call for the greatest tech- excellent indication — that it shows nical skill of an author who is restricted signs of revolting against the jokes from to words and the architectonics of the the Literary Digest. novel, are easily achieved for him in the pictures.
MT My own notion is, you see, that there is a perfectly legitimate field in art for One of the great foes to improvement the picture-play; and that only by tak- in moving-picture art would seem to be ing it as a different genre, and exploit the close-up. The close-up, I take it, ing its own vast possibilities, can the is still the approved field of such ‘menbest results be got. If the tendency to tal movement' as appears in a play. vulgarity is there, even in the original Now, I have not seen all the great
movie stars. But I have seen half a doz
а the quiet sort, can be done on the en of the best-known movie actresses, screen. I have seen his immobile proand the simple fact is that, when they file describe a mental conflict as I have register emotions in a close-up, they never seen it done on the real stage exall look precisely alike. They grimace cept by Mrs. Fiske in Rosmersholm. I identically. Either - it seems to me have always thought that Mrs. Fiske's they have not learned how to use the silent profile, conveying to an audience close-up properly for dramatic pur- the fact that incest had been unwittingposes, or there is something the matter ly committed, was one of the greatest with the close-up itself, and it should be pieces of acting I have ever seen. I did gingerly dealt in. I incline to believe
not suppose it could be easily matched that it is a matter of imperfect tech- on the real stage, and I should never nique. These women move differently, have dreamed it could be done at all on act differently, ‘suggest’ differently, in the screen. But I believe that, if necesthe body of the play. It is only when sary, Hayakawa could do it. Each play you stare into their tearful or triumph- that I have seen ‘the Jap’in was worse ant faces, made colossal, that they all than the last, and I have begun to be become alike. It may be that make afraid that he is going to be forced up has something to do with it. But why, I do not know - into the contor
the fault is there. The men are nearly tionism, the violence, the eventual abas bad, but not quite. I suppose all surdity, that must, I suppose, always heroes do not have to have cupid's- be waiting to engulf the emotional bow mouths, for one thing. People do screen actor. But I shall never forget not have such fixed standards for male the first simple little play I saw him in, charm. Both men and women need where the setting amounted to nothing, more subtlety in this matter of close- the characters were few and humble, ups. I believe there are too many close and the acting was supremely quiet ups, anyhow; but I am sure that the and very great. It can be done. And as close-up has possibilities which many of this is a discussion of movie possibiliour stars have not mastered. I know, ties simply, not of movie achievements because I have several times seen Sessue up to date, that is all we need to know. Hayakawa.
I am not saying that others have not I am so little an authority on movie done it. I can only say, out of my small stars that I do not wish to name names experience, that he is the one who has in this essay. Though I have seen a proved to me most conclusively that it good many of the most famous, I have is just as possible to have great acting not seen them all. Those I have seen, I on the screen as on the stage. have not seen enough times. But I have The sentimentalism to which we seen and and
and have referred is simply, I think, a prev(more than once, some of them), alent vice of our own day, and not to who are at the very top of popularity be credited to movies any more than to and fame. (I am omitting entirely, for any other form of popular art. Certainthe present, the slap-stick stuff, and ly our books are as rotten with it as our speaking only of serious plays.) And if picture-plays. But books have had a I had not seen Sessue Hayakawa, I long history, and novel, play, poem, and should think, perhaps, the subtle, the essay are established genres. They will really helpful close-up was well-nigh pull up. It is because the moving-picimpossible. Hayakawa has proved to
young and as yet unsure, me that it is not; that great acting, of because it is still without traditions,
that it stands in peril of succumbing to tute movie-vulgarity can be largely any bad fashion that is going.
checked and controlled. The genre There are various attempts being should be exploited for its artistic posmade and planned, I believe, to make sibilities, which are great, and the acthe movie, not only pure, but high-brow. tors should develop variety rather than I have never seen the results. But I one conventional mode. There is no wonder if the authors of these attempts doubt that, at present, the most attracare using the right methods. Are they tive films are those which use vast landutilizing the great, the special assets of scapes and numbers of people in motion. the screen? The prime thrill in a movie But you cannot restrict the movie-art is the thrill of the spectacular. Great to plays of this type. It has been proved spaces, with horsemen riding, men lying by certain actors and actresses that in ambush; the specks in the distance 'mental movement' and natural bodgrowing; flight and pursuit, wherever ily action are not impossible to 'get and whoever; the crowd, the passionate across.' The cheapening, the over-simgroup; the contrast (as I have said) of plification and over-stressing of emopast and present, rich and poor, happy tion, are not inevitable concomitants of and unhappy, hero and villain, can all filming a story. You can get your thrill be made vivid to an extent that must quietly, subtly. The words that are reft leave mere words (unless used by a mas- from the actor must be made up for, ter) lagging far behind. What one may by him, with more than usual significall the processional value of the movies cance of bodily and facial expression. can hardly be exaggerated. Whereas But again, it can be done. And to help the play must gather up its action into a along, there is that immense potentialfew set scenes, the movie can show life ity of temporal, social, personal, emoin flux - people going naturally about tional contrast which no other genre their appointed ways, as, in the world, really possesses. Antithesis, so far, has people do. I used to think, when I was not, I imagine, been either generally new to film plays, that the unnatural enough or subtly enough used. From movement of the actors was due to some the hovel to the palace is one way, to be law of the camera. But again, it is not sure; but that is cheap and easy. It so. A few weeks ago I saw a well-known does not begin to tap the possibilities. male star in a not particularly interest- A proper contrast, properly shown, will ing adaptation of a once popular novel, make up for chapters of verbiage; but and the star bore himself like a human the contrast must be carefully made in gentleman. He moved as slowly and as every detail. Mere 'velvet and rags, so gracefully as he pleased. There was the world wags' will not do. none of that jerky rhythm, which is so I am told that America is really reprevalent that one is sometimes tempt- sponsible for the moving-picture genre: ed to think it the inevitable gait of the that we are the chief sponsors, if not screen. Whether he paced the floor, or the positive authors, of the movie. It is took up a book, or lighted a cigarette, we who must make or mar it as an art. or got into a motor-car, or clasped the I know nothing about foreign films; heroine in his arms, he did it all with I have never seen any outside of the perfect naturalness, with the usual United States. I do not know whence rhythm of well-controlled muscles. So these movies come which are doing, it, too, can be done.
according to unquestionable authority, I believe that both the sensationalism such harm among the brown and yeland the sentimentalism which consti- low races. But I quite see that we have