Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Silver Horde (1930) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Several of my friends have spent this weekend at Capitolfest in New York, which this year is celebrating the films of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

Since I couldn't be at the fest -- I'd love to go one day! -- the next best thing was watching a Joel McCrea movie at home. I pulled out the Kino Lorber RKO Classic Adventures set and watched McCrea in THE SILVER HORDE (1930).

Funnily enough, one of McCrea's costars in this early talkie is Jean Arthur, who was just reviewed yesterday in Kino's new release of EASY LIVING (1937). I'll also soon review her in the new Kino Blu-ray of Billy Wilder's A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948).

I first saw THE SILVER HORDE back in 2008, and I thought it would be interesting to take a fresh look at it, with so much additional knowledge of both Joel McCrea and early sound films acquired in the intervening years. My impressions now were pretty much the same as on my first veiwing; I still found the movie rather creaky, but it's worthwhile viewing and is quite interesting to look at in the context of both actors' overall careers.

Joel plays Boyd Emerson, who starts a salmon fishery in Alaska with the help of Cherry Malotte (Evelyn Brent). Cherry is a tough gal who, unbeknownst to Boyd, is a "camp follower" (i.e., a woman of "ill repute") who has influence (ahem) with Boyd's banker (William B. Davidson).

Arthur plays Boyd's snooty society fiancee Mildred, who is shocked when she learns Cherry's background and believes the worst of Boyd and Cherry's relationship. Mildred turns out to be more than a bit of a shrew, while the steadfast Cherry is there for Boyd through all manner of problems. Though initially dismayed when he realizes Cherry's background, eventually Boyd realizes which woman has greater worth.

It's a reasonably watchable film, with a highlight being a documentary-style sequence on salmon processing. McCrea and Brent give the movie's most interesting performances; Brent's Cherry is perhaps more fully developed than McCrea's tenacious, hardworking Boyd, but he comes across as natural and likeable.

The Jean Arthur seen here bears little connection to the charmer seen in classic comedies just a few years later. She plays an uptight young miss, and her screen looks were not yet fully developed; here she's passably pretty, albeit with bad eyebrows which significantly change her appearance from the lovely looks of her later films, such as the previously mentioned EASY LIVING. In later films Arthur's appearance and whimsical personality both light up the screen, but those days were still ahead for Arthur when she made this.

McCrea and Arthur reunited in 1936 for the comedic mystery ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN, then teamed once more for the classic romantic comedy THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943). They, and their films, truly got better as time went by.

Gavin Gordon and Louis Wolheim aren't very good in this, with Gordon overacting and Wolheim's dimwit bully a pure bore. Blanche Sweet adds some zing to the screen as Cherry's good friend. The cast also includes Raymond Hatton and Purnell Pratt. The movie has one of the earliest of the many bit part credits racked up by future star Dennis O'Keefe.

THE SILVER HORDE is a 75-minute film directed by George Archainbaud. It was filmed by John W. Boyle and Leo Tover. The screenplay by Wallace Smith was based on a novel by Rex Beach.

The print of THE SILVER HORDE was restored by Lobster Films and preserved by the Library of Congress. It's fairly soft at times, as is common for films of this vintage, though overall it's certainly watchable. There are no extras.

THE SILVER HORDE is one of three films in the RKO Classic Adventures set. I previously reviewed THE PAINTED DESERT (1931) starring William Boyd, Clark Gable, and Helen Twelvetrees. I'll be reviewing the final film in the set, THE PAY-OFF (1930) with Lowell Sherman and Marian Nixon, at a future date.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger barrylane said...

Cherry Malotte is the same character portrayed notably by Marlene Dietrich in the Spoilers.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, good info to know! I knew THE SPOILERS was based on a Rex Beach novel yet somehow (despite the great cast!) have not yet managed to catch up with either the '42 or '55 movie versions.

That should be rectified in the next few weeks as I expect to review the '42 version when Kino releases it on Blu-ray in mid-September. It will come complete with a commentary by Toby Roan of 50 Westerns From the 50s so I should learn a lot more then.

Best wishes,

4:04 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Barry, of course, I thought the name sounded somehow familiar. The Spoilers '42 is fantastic.

5:05 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Margot, I thought he film was good, Dietrich and Randolph Scott outstanding, but I was not as sold on Wayne in this, for a pair of reasons. One, his performance is a step below his co-stars, but the black face bit with Cherry's housekeeper, which is not at all in the book, was put me off. Not only patronizing, but no fun. Charmless. The fight was great, kept hoping Randy would win, but of course, I knew better. Scott would have to wait for the three reteamed in Pittsburgh, and Wayne still comes in third. By the way, both men wanted to play Glennister, so John Wayne came in on that, but not in billing. A few years later, they would both be in the Motion Picture Exhibitors top ten poll.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

I thought everybody was in good form in The Spoilers. I liked the chemistry between Marlene and Wayne. Pittsburgh is usually considered the lesser of the two movies but I don't agree. I really love it and as far as I know it is the only time onscreen where Wayne loses a fight. And I'm glad Dietrich ends up with Randy.

About Marlene, I've never been a really big fan of her collaboration with von Sternberg. Yes, the movies are gorgeous to look at but what got on my nerves most was Marlene's constant POSING. With other directors she finally started to act, as opposed to constantly pose. She was good with both Wayne and Scott.

8:22 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I think it is the second half of the picture, perhaps further along than that, I lose Wayne, but never Scoot. Could simply be personal preference.

9:28 PM  

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