Feb. 1st, 2014

tilly_stratford: (Bogie)
My failure to see the appeal of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. had me thinking maybe swashbuckling movies weren't as good in the silent film days as they would get in the Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn era.

But no more.

See, I used to think John Barrymore was exclusively a talkies (and stage) actor, with his sing-songy delivery and sonorous voice. Not the case, as I found out.

In talkies, he's pretty entertaining. In silent films he's an absolute delight -- agile, flamboyant, sexy, and with one of the best-looking noses I've ever seen captured on film (they didn't call him The Great Profile for nothing).

Tonight I watched Don Juan from 1926 and apart from being a surprisingly sophisticated film, you cannot convince me this wasn't made primarily for a female demographic. From the moment Barrymore first appears as the Don exiting his bedroom, post-coitus and half undressed, the camera doesn't so much capture him as suggestively linger on his body. There were no women in the movie as revealingly dressed as Mr. Barrymore. What a silhouette!

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A lot of pre-Code movies strike me as sort of lewd (and very male gaze-y), but this was an elegantly suggestive movie even though it mostly centered around sex.

(Another silent Barrymore vehicle I've seen, The Beloved Rogue, features Conrad Veidt in his first Hollywood movie, and is hands-down the most homoerotic silent movie I've ever seen. You just won't believe how much pawing, caressing and embracing those two get up to in between Barrymore's fencing sequences.)

Ah, swashbucklers. Proving that all you have to do is don some tights, swing on a chandelier and leap on a table, sword in hand, and I'll love you unconditionally (except Fairbanks).

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