Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

Post news stories and home video release announcements here.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline
User avatar

Gagman 66

  • Posts: 4235
  • Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:18 pm

Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 3:11 am

:o Wow! Karl Brown's STARK LOVE Starring Helen Mundey in her only screen appearance was voted into the National Film Registry in December of 2010. Now based on this video on Youtube, it sounds like the restored film could very possibly be forth-coming on DVD. Perhaps from Paramount. It also sounds as if TCM might be premiering it sometime this year.

I have seen STARK LOVE and it is a very interesting movie. Another Paramount Silent on DVD? This would be amazing news. If you count the TREASURES FROM THE AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVE Set 5 that came out last fall. We have had three Paramoutn Silents in less than 6 months released. The collection contained both WOMAN HANDLED with Richard Dix and Esther Ralston, as well as Clara Bow's MAN TRAP.





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82DHr6I- ... re=related"


:shock: Whoops, looks like this post was from a year ago. Nevertheless, it may have taken that long to ink a deal with TCM. Assuming it is TCM that is the unnamed network? Who else could it be?
Last edited by Gagman 66 on Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
Offline

sepiatone

  • Posts: 1844
  • Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:10 pm
  • Location: East Coast, USA

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 10:29 am

YES!, that's great news and about time. How did you find this out? Why is STARK LOVE considered a lost masterpiece when it has never been lost. Didn't know WOMAN HANDLED was out on dvd.
Offline
User avatar

Gagman 66

  • Posts: 4235
  • Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:18 pm

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 11:19 am

sepiatone,

:o Well, STARK LOVE was lost until 1968. But really has only been seen a scant few times since. It was featured on the Lost And Found series way back in in 1978, which is the only copy circulating The score is very interesting, and I would like to see it maintained. It is a small orchestra. At first I did not like it, but it fits much of the movie perfectly. I'm not so sure that the picture is complete. It's an interesting story. Unlike anything almost that's been done in some ways.

Actually, looking at the post more closely the guy says that the documentary on the film they are working on should be coming to DVD and possibly a major network soon. That was about a year ago., though the original post is older. He does not intimate that the movie itself would be included. So it's all kind of confusing. While I would be excited about STARK LOVE, I'd be even more excited about Universal's LONESOME.
Offline
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 7747
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 11:31 am

Here is more information on the documentary, which was released in 2010.
Offline

DShepFilm

  • Posts: 445
  • Joined: Tue Dec 25, 2007 2:40 am

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 12:10 pm

The link Bruce provides is very accurate. Dr. White (who published a long article on "Stark Love" in the quarterly "Film History") hunted down descendants of the non-professionals who appeared in Karl Brown's film, which was made in the mountains near Asheville, NC. Not surprisingly, these descendants had almost nothing to contribute to the story although a couple of them remembered persons in the film from their childhoods.

The principal source for "Stark Love," no secret at all, is a fine book by Horace Kephardt called "Our Southern Highlanders." The author was a social worker for the YMCA who spent many years at the beginning of the 20th century riding circuit in the North Carolina mountains, helping folks who lived there in semi-isolation. I have a copy with notes that was given me by Mr. Brown -- by chance, I used to live directly across the street from him. However, the book has become a classic and I believe it is still in print.

I was at the AFI when the film was recovered from the Czech archive. It bore the title "In the Glens of California." We couldn't find a cutting continuity anywhere so we had to translate the Czech titles and I wrote English titles based upon those translations. We showed it at the 1969 or 1970 New York Film Festival and elsewhere. The foreign negative seemed to have been edited rather crudely from out-takes (there was only one camera) and when I showed our finished version to Karl Brown, he very politely said that he thought it bore sparse relation to the original domestic version, that in fact it was pretty awful, and was certainly no "lost masterpiece" in its present form. All we have today is a suggestion of what the film might have been. The preservation element is at MoMA.

David Shepard
Offline
User avatar

s.w.a.c.

  • Posts: 1067
  • Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:27 pm
  • Location: The Land of Evangeline

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 12:22 pm

I've never seen a poster for Stark Love, but here's some pre-release artwork from the 1927 Paramount Release Book:

Image

I would think a Paramount DVD of this would be unlikely, if only because there are no memorable stars in the film, but I'd sure like to see it.
Last edited by s.w.a.c. on Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Twinkletoes wrote:Oh, ya big blister!
Offline

sepiatone

  • Posts: 1844
  • Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:10 pm
  • Location: East Coast, USA

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostWed Feb 15, 2012 1:30 pm

thanks Gagman, Bruce and David Shepard for that background info. Since I had read books by Kevin Brownlow "The Parade's Gone By" (1968) and the later "The War, The West, The Wilderness" (1979) I always assumed this film had survived but was just rarely seen , sort of like "White Shadows in the South Seas" of which Joe Franklin or Wm Everson praises in a 1959 publication "75 Stars, 50 Films". Daniel Blum also included a decent still of Stark Love in his 1953 "Pictorial History of the Silent Screen.
Offline
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 7747
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostSun Mar 25, 2012 12:39 pm

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/25/silent-movie-wowed-critics-flopped-at-box-office/

Silent movie wowed critics, flopped at box office

By Matt Lakin
Posted March 25, 2012 at 4 a.m.

The film opened to rave reviews from The New York Times and featured Knoxville's first hometown girl to grace the big screen.

Just don't let its title fool you.

" 'Stark Love' is not a sex picture," the Knoxville Sentinel assured its readers. "A Knoxville girl has helped make a motion picture that will in turn help make motion picture history."

The silent movie, filmed in the Smoky Mountains near Robbinsville, N.C., saw the only star turn by Helen Monday, a 16-year-old Knoxville High School student plucked from a drugstore counter by a passing talent scout. She never made another film, despite praise for her acting as hillbilly heroine Barbara Allen.

Monday wasn't there to see her debut on the screen of Knoxville's Riviera theater June 21, 1927. She was busy touring in Nashville with Maynard Baird and his Southern Serenaders orchestra, a regular act on Knoxville's WNOX radio.

The movie's plot couldn't have been darker. Rob Warwick, an unlettered mountain boy played by teenager Forrest James, falls in love with Barbara, a neighbor's daughter. At her urging, he teaches himself to read and leaves the hills of home to study in the city.
Actress Helen Mundy in the 1927 silent film 'Stark Love.' Mundy was a 16-year-old student at Knoxville High School whose real name was Helen Monday. (KNS Archive)

Photo by KNS archive

Actress Helen Mundy in the 1927 silent film 'Stark Love.' Mundy was a 16-year-old student at Knoxville High School whose real name was Helen Monday. (KNS Archive)

He comes home to find his mother dead, exhausted by a life of hard work, and Barbara claimed as a replacement bride by his abusive, barbaric father. The climax comes when father and son face off in the one-room cabin home as the father drags the unwilling girl to the marital bed.

Barbara saves the day when she turns on the father with an ax and leads Rob to safety through a flood.

Director Karl Brown, a former cameraman for D.W. Griffith, had pitched the film as a documentary in the style of "Nanook of the North," made with real mountain people he claimed had never even seen a camera. In reality, he recruited Monday and James from restaurants and drugstores in Southern cities like Knoxville and rounded up the rest from locals.

He paid the sheriff extra for deputies to guard Monday, who basked in the limelight and nearly got her first taste of moonshine on set.

The movie's Oedipal storyline didn't sit well with executives at Paramount, its distributor. Audiences didn't take to the film, either, even though the Times endorsed it as an "engrossing and trenchant pictorial transcript of the daily life of those slothful mountaineers. ... all living, dressing and undressing, sleeping and eating in the same cabin room."

The dawn of talking pictures had already begun to shove silents like "Stark Love" to the side. Couple that with a controversial plot and half-hearted marketing by skittish studio heads, and the movie faded from public view.

The studio melted most of the reels for "Stark Love" down to salvage the silver nitrate stock. Film scholars considered it a lost classic until a copy surfaced in a Czechoslovakian archive in 1968.

Even today, the movie remains mostly unseen — never translated to home video, with all rights claimed by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Library of Congress. The Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound worked for years to arrange a single screening five years ago at the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville.

James and Monday never pursued Hollywood careers. James went home to Alabama to an athletic and business career and to father future Gov. Fob James. Monday married and moved to Galesburg, Mich., where she died in 1987.

The Sentinel's anonymous reviewer generally approved of "Stark Love" for its acting, storyline and cinematography but balked at a few details.

"It is to be hoped that mountain customs are not quite as primitive as the picture will have us believe," he wrote. "The mountaineers are not quite so hard on their women."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Offline
User avatar

Gagman 66

  • Posts: 4235
  • Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:18 pm

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostSun Mar 25, 2012 2:15 pm

Bruce,

:o This would seem to infer that Paramount claims no lingering rights to the surviving print of the film?
Offline
User avatar

drednm

  • Posts: 4421
  • Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:41 pm
  • Location: Belgrade Lakes, ME

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Jul 10, 2012 7:49 pm

Finally saw this although the print was pretty bad and the music awful. Is this slated for a DVD release?

Helen Mundy Mundey Monday was actually pretty good and struck a few Gish-like poses. I wonder if she directed to act like Gish or if she was familiar with Gish films?
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
--------------------
"You're only as good as your last picture." Marie Dressler
Letters from Oblivion http://www.lulu.com/shop/edward-lorusso ... 57852.html
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 730
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostThu Oct 10, 2013 8:58 pm

Saw this movie tonight, at long last. It’s been high on my list of must-sees for a long time. A beautifully restored print of Stark Love was shown this evening at MoMA, accompanied by a five piece ensemble, the NYU Cinemusica players, conducted by Gillian B. Anderson. (She also spoke, before and after the screening, and took questions from the audience.) The score they performed followed the original 1927 cue sheets, which survived somehow.

It’s a terrific movie, beautifully filmed and well acted. Hard to believe that this print, found in Czechoslovakia in 1968, is -- according to the director -- the 2nd rate European release, pieced together from outtakes. If that’s the case, the A-version must have been amazing. Brown also said that the Powers That Be at Paramount forced him to add the flood at the finale, and that he considered it a cheap, melodramatic contrivance. Well, maybe so, but all I can say is, it works!
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline
User avatar

Gagman 66

  • Posts: 4235
  • Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:18 pm

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostThu Oct 10, 2013 10:27 pm

:) Glad to hear that it's undergone additional restoration since the late 70's. Thanks for letting us know.
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 730
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostFri Oct 11, 2013 7:31 am

Gagman 66 wrote::) Glad to hear that it's undergone additional restoration since the late 70's. Thanks for letting us know.


You're welcome. Incidentally, there was no mention last night of a commercial release for this restored version, but if it were to become available on DVD I know I'd buy one in a heartbeat. And of course, the documentary would make an ideal extra.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline
User avatar

BenModel

  • Posts: 752
  • Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:14 pm
  • Location: New York

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostFri Oct 11, 2013 8:13 am

According to the pre-film restoration titles on the new print, some of the new intertitles' text was derived from a vintage review of the film by Mordaunt Hall, with the remainder having been translated back to English from the Czech titles. The image quality looks fantastic, and the print has an overall sepia tint, with night exteriors lavender, etc. The score original cue sheet score was, for the most part, very effective. Being a Paramount silent, and one that isn't "The Big Parade", it would take a distributor with a strong interest in putting the film out without regard for making a profit for this to wind up on DVD. Either that, or the film being included in a 6th "Treasures" set if one is even happening. Hopefully the film will get shown at some festivals or other venues who can afford a 35mm print from MoMA, the Paramount license, and live music, so it can be seen.

The film repeats at MoMA on Sunday, October 20 at 5:30, with Donald Sosin accompanying.

Ben
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 2842
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Here. No, over here. Yes, that's me

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostFri Oct 11, 2013 9:01 am

Some of Anderson's score for the performance were surprising and required some thought to understand why the cue sheet had read that way originally -- for example, a lot of very antique, chamber music-sounding choices, which makes sense only because I am familiar with the work of Manly Wade Wellman and understand that this is pre-bluegrass and Appalachian folk music was modified Elizabethan -- the hero, after all, is named "Barbara Allen". Some people didn't understand the period of silence, but I have spoken with Stuart Oderman and he likes to be silent during moments of great emotion. Prof. Anderson noted that her orchestration for WINGS followed the cue sheet and the battle scenes were accompanied by incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Some major cultural assumptions have changed!

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” — James Thurber
Offline
User avatar

Gagman 66

  • Posts: 4235
  • Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:18 pm

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostFri Oct 11, 2013 4:44 pm

Ben,

:? Again, it was my understanding that Paramount claims no rights to STARK LOVE? We had a guy a few months back who claimed that the film was licensed for broadcast in 2009 to TCM, and was supposed to have been shown by them earlier this year. Still not sure what happened with this, but I will try to find the post.
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 730
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostSat Oct 12, 2013 4:29 pm

boblipton wrote:Prof. Anderson noted that her orchestration for WINGS followed the cue sheet and the battle scenes were accompanied by incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Some major cultural assumptions have changed!

Bob


You left out an amusing detail, Bob. When Professor Anderson told us that incidental music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream was used for Wings, she said it was indicated in the cue sheets that the film’s dogfight sequences should be accompanied by Mendelssohn’s “fairy theme.” (Which got a chuckle from the audience.) She added that this may have been because those bi-planes suggested little fairies fluttering about in the sky. Yep, cultural assumptions have changed, all right. We can only wonder how the fighter pilots of the era might have reacted to this artistic choice.

Anyhow, getting back to Stark Love. Yesterday I checked the clippings files at the Performing Arts Library for more information on this film, and found several items of interest. I looked at a program from the premiere engagement at Moss’ Cameo Theatre in Times Square, from late February of 1927. There’s a note on the back reporting that the film was made on location in the Santeetlah district of the Great Smoky mountains, near the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. It also says that the subjects of the film “are of so primitive a culture that life there closely resembles that of the early settler . . . Students of Americana are urged to study the picture in detail, as it is a trustworthy presentation of the log cabin life which gave us Lincoln, Boone, and Crockett.”

Inside the program we learn that the opening night performance commenced with an orchestra playing the overture from Puccini’s La Boheme, followed by a Pathe newsreel and a short comedy: Harry Langdon’s Lucky Stars, of all things. Irish character actor Luke Cosgrave then delivered a spoken introduction to the feature. At first it wasn’t clear to me why this particular actor was chosen to introduce the film, as he seems to have had no connection with its production, but then I found another clipping describing the event, written by the Herald Tribune’s critic Harriette Underhill. Cosgrave was born in Ireland, and grew up in a rural area similar to the one seen in the film; though it’s not clear from Underhill’s piece whether his boyhood took place in Ireland or if his family moved to the U.S. early on. In any case, he spoke of the mountaineers as “my people,” and told the audience that Karl Brown had induced the hill people to do what he wanted because they had no idea what the final result would be, and couldn’t follow the story-line because the film was not shot in sequence. He’s quoted as saying (apparently in jest): “It certainly would be dangerous for him to return. For some of them may by this time have learned what the picture was about. What Mr. Brown has put on the screen is a true story of their lives; but these people would not relish seeing it on the screen, and life is not very precious to them; neither their own lives nor the lives of others.” Incidentally, there’s one Luke Cosgrave performance that just about everyone has seen: he’s the elderly bandleader in Gone With the Wind, in the ball sequence when Scarlett O’Hara dances in widow’s weeds.

I found one other program for another screening of Stark Love in New York, a few months after the opening, at a second-run house called the Little Theatre. This time, the show kicked off with the overture from Burleigh’s Deep River, followed by a newsreel, a science short called The Ant, which seems to have been the Microcosmos of its day, and a comedy short: Harry Langdon in Saturday Afternoon. (There he goes again!) The Little Theatre’s program reports that the feature has been hailed in New York “and even in the fan magazines” as one of the finest films of the year. They also tout the “unbeatable accompaniment” of their house band, “no blare, but quiet music well played.” Sounds like a very enjoyable evening at the movies, all told.

I’ve found a number of other documents about Stark Love, including some contemporary reviews and several articles about the rediscovery of the film in the late ‘60s, and will post about it again when I have a moment.
Last edited by Wm. Charles Morrow on Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 2842
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Here. No, over here. Yes, that's me

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostSat Oct 12, 2013 4:44 pm

According to one of the IMDB reviews, the actors were not backwoodsmen. I hope that John White will not take any objection to my posting his comments here.

Stark Love is a beautifully photographed, early example of neo-realism filmed on location in the mountains of Appalachia with resident non-actors -- real-life mountaineers. The film's leading lady, Helen Mundy, was acknowledged to be the only exception. She in fact was a Knoxville, Tennessee teenager who had appeared on stage as a dancer in "George White's Scandals."

In addition, contrary to Paramount publicity and to director Karl Brown's memoirs, Stark Love's leading man was not a simple mountain youth. Forrest James (Fob), along with his twin brother William Everett (Ebb), was a three-sport letterman of Auburn University (then Alabama Polytechnic Institute). He later taught high school history and coached baseball before becoming a successful small town businessman. One of his three sons, Fob Jr., became governor of Alabama.

Forrest James acquits himself well in Stark Love, playing the silent style of acting convincingly while displaying his great athleticism in the demanding action sequences. He fights, he rides horses, and at one point he swims a swift, flooding river. Director Brown considered James quite a "find" and Paramount was interested in bringing him to Hollywood.

However, Fob James turned down the studio's invitation. Honoring his mother's wishes, the college sophomore returned to Auburn to complete his education. After graduation, he devoted himself to family, business, sports, and community service. He seems never to have looked back on "what might have been."

A more recent discovery is that the Circuit Preacher is not played by Graham County resident Sim Hooper, as once believed and recounted by local residents in the 1990s. The role is played by a member of the film crew, Karl Brown's right-hand man, Captain Paul Wing.

Wing, a hero of World War I, went on to win an Oscar as Assistant Director for Lives of a Bengal Lancer. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, he joined General MacArthur's staff in the Philippines. At 49 years old be survived the Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March. He then brought a camera into the war prison at Cabanatuan and secretly took photographs of the conditions there. In January 1945, Wing and his fellow prisoners were liberated from the camp by U.S. Army Rangers, Alamo Scouts and Filipino guerrillas in a daring action later known as The Great Raid.

This information appears in the following articles I have written about the film and in an upcoming documentary:

"Hollywood Comes to Knox County," Kentucky Humanities, Spring 2010: 29-34. Published by the Kentucky Humanities Council.

"Forrest James, Hollywood's Reluctant Star." Alabama Heritage. Number 93, Summer 2009: 44-53. Published by the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

"Myth and Movie Making: Karl Brown and the Making of Stark Love." Film History, an International Film Journal. Volume 19, 1 (2007): 49-57. Published by Indiana University.


Certainly the settings look real, although the shoddiness of construction when contrasted with the obviously store-bought dishes looks odd. My readings in the field, mostly the work of Manly Wade Wellman, indicates anything but the slovenly attitudes shown.

What impressed me most about the picture is that the characters, living in their society, do not consciously behave cruelly.
“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” — James Thurber
Offline
User avatar

CoffeeDan

  • Posts: 748
  • Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2008 2:55 pm
  • Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostSat Oct 12, 2013 11:14 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
boblipton wrote:Prof. Anderson noted that her orchestration for WINGS followed the cue sheet and the battle scenes were accompanied by incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Some major cultural assumptions have changed!

Bob


You left out an amusing detail, Bob. When Professor Anderson told us that incidental music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream was used for Wings, she said it was indicated in the cue sheets that the film’s dogfight sequences should be accompanied by Mendelssohn’s “fairy theme.” (Which got a chuckle from the audience.) She added that this may have been because those bi-planes suggested little fairies fluttering about in the sky. Yep, cultural assumptions have changed, all right. We can only wonder how the fighter pilots of the era might have reacted to this artistic choice.


Proving once again what my high school English teacher warned me: "Irony is wasted on most people."
Offline
User avatar

Gagman 66

  • Posts: 4235
  • Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 8:18 pm

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostMon Oct 14, 2013 1:36 am

:? Thanks guys. Very in depth information. Wow, really an amazing and fascinating amount of research on a film we will probably never get to see. Well, actually I have seen and own a copy of the 1978 PBS Museum Of Modern Art's LOST AND FOUND series broadcast on DVD-R. Print transfer is actually quite good, and it has a multiple instrument score. At first I thought that the music was really bad. However, as it got into it more, much of the music is more then fairly befitting in such a setting. Definitely beats Maria Newman.
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 730
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostMon Oct 14, 2013 8:36 pm

As promised the other day, I have more material on Stark Love from the archives. All of the contemporary reviews I found are positive in tone; some critics expressed reservations about certain aspects of the production, but over all the reviews are raves. Mordaunt Hall, who so often seemed unimpressed with films now regarded as classics, found this one “engrossing and trenchant,” and compared it to the work of Robert Flaherty. The anonymous critic of the N.Y Evening News asserts that cameraman Karl Brown, in his directorial debut, outshines many other, more experienced directors in his “grasp of human realities.” Harriette Underhill of the Herald Tribune wrote of the film with great enthusiasm, urged readers to see it, and devoted a paragraph to a detailed description of leading lady Helen Mundy, saying that she “has a strangely sinister look” and “for all her youth, her eyes are like pools of lava about to pour out fire.” I agree -- there’s something a little scary about Mundy. She’s sensitive and sympathetic, yet entirely credible wielding an ax against her opponent in the finale. If she’d continued acting, I could see her playing strong, Stanwyck-like women in later portrayals.

John Cohen of the N.Y. Sun was so impressed with Stark Love he devoted two columns to the subject: first a review, and then a follow-up essay. In his first piece, he waxes poetic and compares the film to the work of Eugene O’Neill, calling it “a revelation in the potentialities of the secondary art known as the movies. Where art ends and life begins is, of course, a moot point, but Stark Love is both. Greek tragedies and Desires Under the Elms may come and go. Stark Love, however, is actuality that will live as long as a photographic print can survive the wear and tear of time.” (That last phrase sharpens the sense of loss we feel today for the American release print Cohen was writing about, and reminds us of the many missing films so beloved of audiences of his day, such as The Miracle Man, which we may never see.) Cohen does lament what he considers the phony melodrama of the film’s climactic flood, which he sensed -- correctly -- was the responsibility of Paramount rather than the director. In his follow-up column a week later, Cohen ranks Stark Love alongside the works of Griffith, Murnau, Eisenstein, etc., although he once again condemns the flood finale, this time stating outright that the producers forced it on Brown, perhaps having spoken with the director in the interim between his two columns. But he praises the film highly nonetheless, calling it “as near a perfect film transcription of a certain phase of human life as an intelligent director with a highly acute and sensitive feeling for people can picturize. It may not be great; it may not seem great to everyone, but there is no question but that it is a stepping-stone in the path of the cinema.”

Cohen ends this second column by quoting from several congratulatory telegrams Karl Brown had received since the film’s premiere. From James Cruze & Betty Compson: “The picture is great, whether they like it or not, and you personally can’t flop.” From Raoul Walsh: “Stark Love is a tremendous hit.” From Ben Hecht: “One of the three finest motion pictures I’ve seen.” [I wonder what the other two might have been?] From director William K. Howard: “You’re a long way from home, young fellow, but you won’t be lonesome after your picture opens Sunday. The whole wide cockeyed world is going to beat a path to your door, and if they don’t please come home, where we are all pulling for you.” From Monte Blue: “Since I’m too far away to attend the opening of Stark Love, I feel I must wire you my congratulations. Here is hoping you give us more like it.” From character actor George Siegmann, who’d worked with the director back in the Griffith days: “Congratulations. Hope Stark Love breaks all records. Tickled to death at your success.” And from screenwriter Thomas Geraghty, who’d worked on a number of prestigious projects for Douglas Fairbanks and others: “A million best wishes for the opening of your initial production, Stark Love. Everybody in Hollywood is rooting for you and I know you will knock New York for a row of exclamations, adjectives and superlatives.”

That’s a good place to pause, for now -- at the prospect of New York getting knocked for a row of exclamations, etc. Next time I’ll post about the rediscovery of the film in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline

DShepFilm

  • Posts: 445
  • Joined: Tue Dec 25, 2007 2:40 am

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostMon Oct 14, 2013 9:19 pm

Lest it be forgotten among all the panegyrics, the version of STARK LOVE that exists today was assembled from secondary takes for foreign release and when Karl Brown saw it, he told me it was a very poor representation of the film he had made as released domestically.

David Shepard
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 730
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostMon Oct 14, 2013 9:25 pm

DShepFilm wrote:Lest it be forgotten among all the panegyrics, the version of STARK LOVE that exists today was assembled from secondary takes for foreign release and when Karl Brown saw it, he told me it was a very poor representation of the film he had made as released domestically.

David Shepard


Yes, as noted in my second paragraph just above: John Cohen was praising the American release print, a film that no longer exists.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline

Daniel Eagan

  • Posts: 431
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:14 am

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 8:17 am

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:All of the contemporary reviews I found are positive in tone; some critics expressed reservations about certain aspects of the production, but over all the reviews are raves.


Raves or not, the film tanked in theaters.

Brown later was very uncomplimentary about his leads. More than uncomplimentary, insulting. For that matter, the entire film is insulting to Southern culture, but the industry has always been condescending towards "hillbillies" and their ilk.

Also, Brown shot some material for the film in Astoria, Queens.
Offline
User avatar

Mitch Farish

  • Posts: 420
  • Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 10:30 am
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 8:52 am

Daniel Eagan wrote:
Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:All of the contemporary reviews I found are positive in tone; some critics expressed reservations about certain aspects of the production, but over all the reviews are raves.


Raves or not, the film tanked in theaters.

Brown later was very uncomplimentary about his leads. More than uncomplimentary, insulting. For that matter, the entire film is insulting to Southern culture, but the industry has always been condescending towards "hillbillies" and their ilk.

Also, Brown shot some material for the film in Astoria, Queens.


I haven't seen Stark Love of course, so I can't know for sure, but most of the stills I have seen appear to fit the hillbilly stereotype, quite unlike Tol'able David, which is respectful of mountain people and culture, and was directed by Henry King who was born and raised in the mountain community of Christiansburg, Va.
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 730
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 12:56 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:Brown later was very uncomplimentary about his leads. More than uncomplimentary, insulting.


I'm still sifting through archival material on this film, and haven't read it all yet, but thus far I haven't found any quotes from Brown concerning his actors I would characterize as insulting. According to John White's article from Film History, Brown later described Helen Mundy as the most difficult actress he ever worked with, but that doesn't strike me as a terrible thing to say.

I'm curious, what's your source? You forgot to mention it.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline

Daniel Eagan

  • Posts: 431
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:14 am

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 2:01 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
Daniel Eagan wrote:Brown later was very uncomplimentary about his leads. More than uncomplimentary, insulting.


I'm still sifting through archival material on this film, and haven't read it all yet, but thus far I haven't found any quotes from Brown concerning his actors I would characterize as insulting. According to John White's article from Film History, Brown later described Helen Mundy as the most difficult actress he ever worked with, but that doesn't strike me as a terrible thing to say.


No, according to Kevin Brownlow, Brown said, "Helen Mundy was the most difficult person I ever had anything to do with." That's pretty harsh for a sixteen-year-old girl who had no acting experience. And he said Forrest James was an "Achilles" who spent most of his time sulking in his tent.

J.M. Williamson's excellent book Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies has a long chapter on the making of Stark Love. As he notes, "Brown had no intention of flattering a rural nostalgia that he clearly despised. ... Brown knew nothing of mountain people or of mountain living except what he had gleaned through the media." From Brown's New York Times interview: "They were like children, Mr. Brown declared, in their implicit obedience. ... The men are lazy, drunken, good-for-nothings, he said, who hunt, fish, fight and get drunk." Replace "mountain people" with "black people" or "Indians" and you can get an idea of where Brown was working from.

Williamson details Brown's source materials—basically outdated, melodramatic trash—and his "hilarious" casting process (that began in New Orleans).

And while we're at it, Variety's review was hardly a thumbs-up. It referred to the film as "a freak" and said it drew raves from "high-brows in the neighborhood" when Brown premiered it at Broadway Cameo at his own expense. In other words, not for mainstream viewers.

Look, you're entitled to your opinions about Stark Love. I think it's beautifully shot hokum that is condescending about the South when it's not actually wrong. You can find articles to support your position—The New York Times ran three pieces on the film before it opened, for example. But the Times often prints glowing profiles and interviews about movies that turn out to be awful. It's how the publicity machine works.

On the other hand, I can find articles that support my view on Stark Love. If you want those sources, they're in my book.
Offline
User avatar

Harold Aherne

  • Posts: 1455
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:08 pm
  • Location: North Dakota

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 2:37 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:J.M. Williamson's excellent book Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies has a long chapter on the making of Stark Love. As he notes, "Brown had no intention of flattering a rural nostalgia that he clearly despised. ... Brown knew nothing of mountain people or of mountain living except what he had gleaned through the media." From Brown's New York Times interview: "They were like children, Mr. Brown declared, in their implicit obedience. ... The men are lazy, drunken, good-for-nothings, he said, who hunt, fish, fight and get drunk." Replace "mountain people" with "black people" or "Indians" and you can get an idea of where Brown was working from.


It's a common thread across many cultures to be suspicious of or to misunderstand those who live in isolated areas and/or who follow markedly different social customs. In the latter category are the Roma and Irish Travellers of Europe; in the former are (or were, in the 1920s) the residents of Appalachia. As cultures grow to value permanent residences, formal education, belonging to a cohesive community and accepting the values of that community, groups such as those I mentioned may become the objects of increased contempt as outside societies come into greater contact with them and pressure them to adapt to the modern world. (There's probably a dissertation waiting to be written about the anthropological meanings of films like Stark Love and Salt for Svanetia.)

Contempt towards Appalachian ways may have come the same general intellectual sources that promoted eugenics and social improvement during the 1910s through 30s (in the wake of books like The Kallikak Family and the 1927 Buck vs. Bell Supreme Court case--although neither one of those actually dealt with Appalachians). But these negative attitudes didn't have the same consequences as anti-Black or anti-Native racism; white Appalachians weren't denied the right to vote because of their race, they weren't the object of attempted genocides, they weren't regarded as subhuman, they weren't forbidden to marry non-Appalachian whites. The cultural contempt that Karl Brown and others in the 20s may have had towards mountain people may seem problematic, but it isn't tantamount to racism.

-HA
Offline
User avatar

s.w.a.c.

  • Posts: 1067
  • Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:27 pm
  • Location: The Land of Evangeline

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 2:52 pm

TCM Movie Morlocks blogger R. Emmet Sweeney posts about Stark Love screening at MoMA, with stills (and credits NitrateVille in the process).
Twinkletoes wrote:Oh, ya big blister!
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 2842
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Here. No, over here. Yes, that's me

Re: Karl Brown's STARK LOVE (1927) may be coming to DVD?

PostTue Oct 15, 2013 3:00 pm

Although Mr. Sweeney claims that Karl Brown began as a cameraman for Griffith, Brown had worked at the Los Angeles branch of Kinemacolour before going to work for Griffith.

Bob
“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” — James Thurber
Next

Return to Silent News

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 3 guests