Thursday, December 31, 2020

Tonight's Movie: What Happened to Jones? (1926) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

One of the most notable sets released this year by Kino Lorber has been the Reginald Denny Collection, a Blu-ray set of three silent comedies.

The movies give classic film fans a completely different perspective on Denny, who is probably best known today as a supporting actor in films such as Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940).

During the silent era the British-born Denny was a talented comedian and romantic lead in films such as the three in this set, which include the previously reviewed THE RECKLESS AGE (1924) and SKINNER'S DRESS SUIT (1926).

My look at the set wraps up with a review of the third film, WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES? (1926).  I think I unknowingly saved the best for last, as while I enjoyed each of the films, this was my favorite.

Tom Jones (Denny) is due to marry Lucille Bigbee (Marian Nixon, billed as Marion) on the morrow, though he's not the preferred candidate of her parents (Melbourne MacDowell and Francis Raymond).  

On the eve of the wedding Tom's friend Ebenezer (Otis Harlan) convinces Tom to join him for a game of poker, which is promptly raided by the police.  Tom and Ebenezer escape but are chased to a ladies' "reducing parlor," where they have to hide in steam baths.  The police find Tom's wallet and look for him at Lucille's house.

Tom and Ebenezer eventually make their way to Ebenezer's house, where Tom masquerades as Ebenezer's brother, a bishop due to arrive in town who most of the family has never met.  The hurt and embarrassed Lucille, meanwhile, has called off her wedding to Tom and has consented to marry the man her parents favor, Henry (William Austin, who was also in THE RECKLESS AGE).

Ebenezer's forbidding wife (Emily Fitzroy) has a special surprise for the "bishop" -- she's arranged for him to perform Lucille and Henry's wedding!

This was quite a fun, madcap 69 minutes, with Denny carrying virtually every scene.  While I only found the bathhouse sequence mildly amusing -- the men end up in drag, never my most favorite thing to watch -- the scenes where Tom masquerades as the bishop grow downright hilarious.  

By the time the film arrives at the wedding sequence, it was quite suspenseful wondering how the "bishop" would get out of the situation and win back his true love, especially with the police still looking for Tom.  I'm sure it's no surprise that it's resolved in delightful fashion.

Denny is a wonderful farceur, and the entire cast is excellent.  I think this was the first silent film in which I've seen Zasu Pitts, who plays a maid Tom and Ebenezer must continually pay off for her silence; I could just imagine Pitts' funny voice droning her character's repeated refrain, "I didn't see him come in, I didn't see him go out, I didn't see nothing."

Leading lady Marian Nixon was in films from 1923 to 1936; among her films previously reviewed here are THE PAY-OFF (1930) and TOO BUSY TO WORK (1932).  Nixon married this film's director, William A. Seiter, in 1934, a marriage which lasted until his death three decades later.  Their son, Christopher, worked as an assistant director.  (It was rather "full circle" to read Christopher Seiter's 2003 obituary and find a quote by Dawn Wells, who passed away yesterday.)

In 1972 Nixon married Ben Lyon, who had been widowed when his wife Bebe Daniels passed away in 1971.  Lyon died in 1979 and Nixon in 1983.  She and Seiter are interred at Forest Lawn Glendale, while Lyon and Daniels are at Hollywood Forever.  

WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES? was filmed by Arthur L. Todd.  Melville L. Brown adapted the scenario from a play by George Broadhurst.

The original score on the Kino Blu-ray is by Anthony Willis.

The Kino Lorber print is excellent.  There's an occasional line on the screen but given the film's age, it's in great shape.  Like the other two films in the set, it includes a commentary track by Anthony Slide.

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


Blogger barrylane said...

Great set of pictures; love Denny in just about anything he did. A few days back I ran Christmas Eve, an all-star cast, George Raft, George Brent, Randolph Scott, Joan Blondell, Dolores Moran, Virginia Field, Ann Harding (produced about the same period as It Happened on Fifth Avenue) and Reginald Denny, with people like John Litel and Joe Sawyer showing up for small but wonderful moments. Just a thought: the blu ray(from Olive films) was a mess in terms of sound, but I will run it again and make some adjustments. When released the film was successful, but the reviews poor. I love it.

Happy New Year to all.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

This set was really a treat. I have another Denny silent film, OH, DOCTOR! costarring Mary Astor which was released on DVD by Grapevine Video. Hoping it will be enjoyable as well.

I've been a particular Denny fan since first seeing THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (1934). I wished he and Fay Wray had had more screentime in their supporting roles! Then I was so fascinated to learn about his "second career" as a drone inventor. I'm always happy to see him pop up on screen.

It's been a few years since I saw CHRISTMAS EVE so I revisited my review. It appears you liked it more than I did but I adore the entire cast and should probably give it a look again sometime. I remarked that the DVD print wasn't that good (though better than I'd previously seen on TV) -- didn't remember there being a sound issue also. I'll watch for that on my DVD next time.

Best wishes,

6:17 PM  

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