The Woman Disputed (1928)

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entredeuxguerres

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The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 9:31 am

My great ambition to see Norma Talmadge's last silent (inspired, need I add, by photos & artwork of Norma in her streetwalker outfit) was fulfilled last night, thanks to the generosity of a friend here at N'ville. And though I watched it under, to me, the most adverse of viewing circumstances--dead silence--I yet loved it, enough to watch it again soon, much as I dread having to do so in silence. Reading afterwards that it was originally released with a Hugo Riesenfeld score will make that silence even more distressing. But if the Movietone soundtrack has been lost, doesn't Riesenfeld's score survive?

The last scene left me wracking my brain last night, because I was sure I'd seen something very much like it before, until this morning, after first viewing the last scene of A Woman of Experience (1931), the story of another WW I prostitute-heroine, I finally remembered Hotel Imperial, made only a year earlier, 1927. Writers & directors, I know, aren't shy about borrowing "inspirations" from other pictures, but it seems a bit surprising that it was done SO soon by Norma's studio, UA. I shrink from invidious comparisons between these two films, but Hotel Imperial is the best Pola Negri picture I've seen. (Or maybe I should say co-equal with Barbed Wire, also 1927.)

One disappointment: no Olga Baclanova, as advertised! She was replaced (why?) by someone I like very much, Gladys Brockwell, but Gladys can't really match Olga in outrageous behavior.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 10:17 am

This movie was shown at NYC’s Film Forum last week, but unfortunately, much as I wanted to be there, I wasn’t able to go. (Maybe I should start a new thread: Screenings I Had to Miss, Dammit.) However, I did speak to a friend yesterday who was there, who told me about it. She liked the flick over all, and, among other things, was struck by the emphasis on leading man Gilbert Roland—Norma’s offscreen boyfriend at the time. I’m told he was the subject of more glamour close-ups than the leading lady, which is all the more surprising since her husband Joseph Schenck co-produced. One wonders: what did Joe know, and when did he know it?

At any rate, piano accompaniment for the show was provided by the estimable Steve Sterner, who also participated in a special surprise event just after the screening. It was announced that, unfortunately, the original soundtrack is no longer available, but that Mr. Sterner would nonetheless treat the audience to a “live” rendition of the movie’s notorious theme song. And right there, in front of everybody, he sang “Woman Disputed, I Love You.” According to my friend, the performance brought the house down.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:08 am

I saw this recently under similar circumstances, and watched it silent like you did. One of those delightful instances where the film way exceeds one's expectations, and my expectations were very high for this one. I was also struck by the similarities with "Hotel Imperial", similar setting and ending, certainly. "Hotel Imperial" is one of my all-time favourites, but I thought this one did it even better. The ending really got to me actually, where she looks up at the belltower and you can see the tears in her eyes, I got a bit emotional, and my wife was, as she sometimes is, amused by my soppyness with this stuff (see also: "City Lights", "Her Sister from Paris")

I thought Gladys Brockwell was great! Probably better than Baclanova would have been. The bit where the Russian guy orders the firing squad to wait and you can lip read her going "oh my god!!" as she gets all panicky is as convincing a bit of silent acting as I've seen from anyone.

I printed out the sheet music from this film a while ago and messed around with it with my synthesizers. The verse it pretty cheesy stuff but the underlying tune of the chorus, stripped of the silly lyrics, I quite liked, it reminded me a bit of the "Hollywood" TV theme. I managed to get a nice-sounding Vangelisy-sounding bit out of it which I never did anything with, probably I shoukd revisit it.

If this film were to come out on official DVD it would be an instant purchase for me, no hesitation.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:24 am

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:...She liked the flick over all, and, among other things, was struck by the emphasis on leading man Gilbert Roland—Norma’s offscreen boyfriend at the time. I’m told he was the subject of more glamour close-ups than the leading lady, which is all the more surprising since her husband Joseph Schenck co-produced. One wonders: what did Joe know, and when did he know it?


Rather doubt he knew it in '28, but before very much longer, he surely did; Norma's request for a divorce probably provided him a good hint. But Roland (whom I thought the weakest part of New York Nights) deserved the attention in this picture, because, with his military haircut (as opposed to his seedy look in the later picture), & mustache, he looked like a million dollars; in fact, I kept thinking how closely he resembled John Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil, and better looking than that, a man can't get.

Another reason he impressed me so much more than in New York Nights: his performance wasn't marred by the liability of his English accent. Feel the same way about Ramon Novarro--the moment I can hear his Mexican accent (much stronger than Roland's), my perception of his personality is changed...he seems somehow more immature. Not picking only on Mexicans, because I like Johnny Mack Brown well enough in silents, but in talkies, his strong 'Bama accent suggests (yes, I know, unjustly) a buffoonish quality. (Though in Coquette, his accent complimented his role.)
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:27 am

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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:30 am

Glad you enjoyed the film. I saw it years ago, silent, on a steenbeck at LOC, and again a few years back at the SF Silent Film Festival. It usually gets mixed reviews.

I have a page on it here:
http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat/NT/oldreviews/wd.htm" target="_blank
which needs some link updating but does have a link to an excerpt from a damaged Vitaphone disc of the theme song, plus the pictures and text from a souvenir program booklet (now that i have access to a large format scanner, i will eventually make a PDF of it).

The film was based on a story that was already well known, Guy de Maupassant's Boule de Suif, so it's probable that elements of it made its way into other plots even before Norma's film.

And Gladys Brockwell is an outstanding actress, i was just disappointed that her part was not larger.

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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:32 am

N_Phay wrote:...I thought Gladys Brockwell was great! Probably better than Baclanova would have been....


She was great, and my error if I implied otherwise. But some display of Olga's tempestuous quality is what I'd been hoping to see.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:37 am

One source states there was a silent version as well as the "sound" version. Perhaps they thought Baclanova would be required to talk so they replaced her with Brockwell?

from Silentera

"Survival status: Prints exist in the Library of Congress film archive [35mm positive (silent version)]; and in the film holdings of Cohen Media Group (Raymond Rohauer collection) [35mm positive]." Same print or two different prints?
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:48 am

Apparently in her divorce papers it said that she and Joe separated in 1927. Norma was apparently pretty public about their relationship, at least among Hollywood folk.

Here's a letter from Aug. 2, 1928 by Valeria Belletti in Cari Beauchamp's Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary.

"Did you know that Norma Talmadge and her husband, Josph Schenck are no longer living together? I believe they are going to be divorced very shortly—this is merely a rumor. Of course Norma has been carrying on dreadfully with Gilbert Roland for the last year and she hasn’t taken any pains to conceal from the public how she felt towards him. And so it goes—all marriages seem to break sooner or later amongst the movie people."

Here's a newspaper clipping from 1928:
"Norma Talmadge and Gilbert Roland, who together have portrayed several great romances on screen, were among the 300 cabin passengers sailing for Honolulu at noon yesterday aboard the Lasseo liner City of Honolulu. Miss Talmadge is accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Margaret Talmadge, and by her uncle, James Cooley, who shares a stateroom with Mr. Roland. She told newspaper men the trip is being merely for needed rest and has no other significance. “Mr. Roland and I have worked very hard in production of our last picture, “The Woman Disputed,” which Henry King is directing for us, and felt it was necessary to suspend work for this vacation,” said Miss Talmadge. “Neither of us has seen Hawaii and hearing such a lot about its romantic charm we both wanted to go. “You see, we can keep in touch with the story of the picture this way, since we intend to resume work immediately upon our return.” The Talmadge party and Mr. Roland have made reservations at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel during their visit to Honolulu, arriving there on the 22nd inst. Joseph Schenck, film producer and husband of Miss Talmadge, was not at the steamer to bid farewell to his wife. He is reported at United Artists studios to be in New York. [Picture caption]: Going to see the sights of Honolulu. Mrs. Margaret Talmadge, Gilbert Roland and Norma Talmadge."
“Film players off to Hawaii : Picture Held Up for Their Vacation” Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1928.

and another clipping:
Here are Norma Talmadge and Gilberet Roland bound for Hololulu on a vacation. Norma brought her mother along, of course; and Norma’s uncle, Jame Cooley, shared Gilbert’s stateroom. At the moment this picture was snapped, it is supposed that Uncle Jim was in his cabin.
“Uncle Jim’s Cabin”
(unidentified clipping from a movie magazine with a picture of Talmadge and Roland standing arm in arm.)

Here's a couple of earlier clippings:
[Probably early 1926]. Kono informed me one afternoon that Charlie and I were invited to stay for a long weeknd at the Hearst Castle …A nine-passenger limosine pulled upto our front door… Charlie and I came down our front steps just in time to see Elinor Glyn get out of the middle seat to make room for us. Instead of joining Norma Talmadge and Gilbert Roland, who were in the backseat, Elinor came over to us …Norma Talmadge and Gilbert Roland did not pay much attention. They were interested mainly in each other … I never met Norma Talmadge or Gilbert Roland, so Charlie introduced me to them. Despite the assemblage of selebrity personages in this limosine headed up the California coast, the trip was uneventlul. Norma Talmadge and Gilbert Roland were cooing and only had eyes for each other. … The guests disperse. Norma Talmadge and Gilbert Roland found a place in the garden where they could be alone.
Chaplin, Lita Grey. Wife of the Life of the Party. Lanham, Md. Scarecrow, 1998, p. 78-80, 83

Reports from Paris that Norma Talmadge has established a residence there and plans eventually to file suit for divorce against her producer-husband, Joseph Schenck, were heatedly denied by the latter yesterday. “All these rumors to the effect that my wife and I are to be divorced are absolutely without foundation.” Mr. Schenck declared. “She has taken an apartment in France, that is true, but so does everyone else who expects to remain abroad for any length of time. My wife is there for a rest, that is all there is to her trip.” Hollywood reports to the effect that Mr. Schenck plans to sail for Europe shortly to accept a summons of a divorce action in the Paris courts, also were denied by the producer. For several months Hollywood rumors have been afloat to the effect that a rift existed in both the homes of Constance and Norma Talmadge, but each in turn denied them. Later Constance admitted that she was separated from her husband, but denied a divorce action was intended. Thursday she made the public announcement that she will file a divorce complaint. However, both Mr. Schenck and his wife consistently denied a divorce was planned by them. Miss Talmadge reiterating her denial shortly before she sailed for Europe. The actress left here accompanied by Fannie Brice, comedienne, with whom she is reported residing now in Paris. Miss Brice, who is the wife of Jules W. “Nicky” Arnstein, also denied before sailing that she planned a suit for divorce.
“Rumors of Rift Denied by Schenck : Producer Asserts Wife's Residence in Paris Not Prelude to Divorce,”
Los Angeles Times , Jul 9, 1927. p. a5


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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 11:58 am

greta de groat wrote:...It usually gets mixed reviews...greta


Here's the most discerning of them, from Photoplay: "...The ensuing climax and denouement is drama of the greatest poignancy, powerfully handled by Miss Talmadge."

But I'm surprised none of these reviews noted the similarity of the ending to that of Hotel Imperial...which should have been hard to miss in 1928.

And why it should get mixed reviews confounds me; even if one doesn't regard it as "great" (as I do), how could it be denied that it is, at a bare minimum, an excellent production, well worthy of one's 25 cent ticket.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 6:13 pm

I thought it was a great film especially for the performance by Norma Talmadge. She's mesmerizing.

Cohen Media Group now (apparently) owns this film. It would make a great DVD/BLU release....
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 6:48 pm

drednm wrote:...It would make a great DVD/BLU release....


Especially if the major difficulty of commissioning a score (and only an outstanding one would be good enough) could be sidestepped by securing rights to Hugo Riesenfeld's score...which has got to be gathering dust somewhere. But I wouldn't want that "infamous song" to be reprised! To my considerable surprise, I could not find a recording of it on You Tube, usually such a reliable repository of popular tunes.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 7:28 pm

Check the link I posted above.... there's a link there to a recording. The song was not familiar to me..... It's on Greta's Stanford.edu page
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 8:19 pm

drednm wrote:Check the link I posted above.... there's a link there to a recording. The song was not familiar to me..... It's on Greta's Stanford.edu page


Intended doing that but forgot about it. But it's not really so infamous after all--rather a pretty tune, actually; nevertheless, there was NO proper place at all for it in this picture. (Though it would have made excellent exit music.) Seems to have been a passing fad, the incorporation of singing into some scores in the late '20s, as in 7th Heaven; sometimes it seems an asset to the score & picture, other times a tasteless distraction.

By the way, though Greta described this disk as damaged, that "frying bacon" sound is normal for a well-used 78.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 8:25 pm

Image

Maybe the song was the main point to doing a sound disk, since there was apparently no dialog planned.

Have no idea why Olga Baclanova would ever have been hired for so small a part. Gladys Brockwell was fine but there wasn't much to do. And who ever heard of Arnold Kent (Nika)? Born Lido Manetti in Italy, died September 1928 after being run over in Hollywood.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 8:43 pm

drednm wrote:...And who ever heard of Arnold Kent (Nika)? Born Lido Manetti in Italy, died September 1928 after being run over in Hollywood.


But I think we would have heard of him, had he not used his body to arrest the motion of an automobile; I thought he was excellent, like every other performer in this film.

I just looked at Greta's souvenir program--wow! Was it supposed to be a substitute for viewing the picture? It also revealed something fascinating about Kiki--that feisty gamine was all of sweet 16!
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 9:19 pm

Here's a complete recording of the theme song, with lyrics, sung by Harold "Scrappy" Lambert for Brunswick on 27 September 1928 (click on #24 or 25; they seem to be the same):
https://archive.org/details/HaroldScrappyLambertCollection1927-1930

The soundtrack for Woman Disputed was recorded by Victor in Camden, NJ over three days from 10-12 September 1928. The Victor ledgers mark all of them as "inaudible", so the theme apparently wasn't sung on the track. No vocalists are shown participating in the sessions.

-HA
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 9:44 pm

Harold Aherne wrote:Here's a complete recording of the theme song, with lyrics, sung by Harold "Scrappy" Lambert for Brunswick on 27 September 1928 (click on #24 or 25; they seem to be the same):
https://archive.org/details/HaroldScrappyLambertCollection1927-1930

The soundtrack for Woman Disputed was recorded by Victor in Camden, NJ over three days from 10-12 September 1928. The Victor ledgers mark all of them as "inaudible", so the theme apparently wasn't sung on the track. No vocalists are shown participating in the sessions.

-HA


My gosh, there's nothing scrappy about Harold's voice--it's beautiful; so beautiful that I'm forced to revise my aversion to use of the song in this picture, though the precise point of its insertion would be critical. But if in fact it was never used at all, contrary to the mythology, I guess this consideration is moot.

Thanks so much for posting this Harold, though now I'm faced with the obligation of listening to more of Scrappy's recordings.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 9:50 pm

Harold Aherne wrote:Here's a complete recording of the theme song, with lyrics, sung by Harold "Scrappy" Lambert for Brunswick on 27 September 1928 (click on #24 or 25; they seem to be the same):
https://archive.org/details/HaroldScrappyLambertCollection1927-1930

The soundtrack for Woman Disputed was recorded by Victor in Camden, NJ over three days from 10-12 September 1928. The Victor ledgers mark all of them as "inaudible", so the theme apparently wasn't sung on the track. No vocalists are shown participating in the sessions.

-HA


Thank you for this. Mr. Lambert appears to have trained at a "proper" place for singing. He trills the "r's" and also pronounces them at the end of words as well as the other consonants in an endeavour to have clear diction. By way of contrast, my son will occasionally play some modern vocalists to me - about three minutes of them is all I can stand - but, I cannot understand one word of what they are on about! :D
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostSun Dec 06, 2015 10:34 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
Thank you for this. Mr. Lambert appears to have trained at a "proper" place for singing. He trills the "r's" and also pronounces them at the end of words as well as the other consonants in an endeavour to have clear diction....


Exactly what I love about it--the difference between what was called a "trained singer" and a crooner; but we know who won that contest.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 7:07 am

According to IMDb, Arnold Kent was discovered in Italy by a Universal talent scout and brought to Hollywood. Among his 7 US silent films were The Woman Disputed and Hula with Clara Bow. I've not seen the other 5.

As for the music, I could see it as an orchestral theme during the "wedding" scene and as suggested, using the vocal over the final credits.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 9:45 am

Here's a picture I found from The Woman Disputed

Image

The priest is Michael Vavitch, but the people in the back are not the same as in the extant 1928 version. this may be Olga Baclanova rather than Gladys Brockwell as the Countess. The clothing is different, and there also an extra woman in the scene. Possibly from the print that circulated in Europe?
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 10:31 am

drednm wrote:...there also an extra woman in the scene. Possibly from the print that circulated in Europe?


Very odd, as IMDB names only one other actress in the cast: Marion Templeton, whose role is "unconfirmed"; and her only film credit, strangely, is this picture.

So to fill this vacuum in the factual record, I'll emulate Gwynplaine by creating my own description of her role in the European ed.: the "priest," remember, was an imposter; Marion played his mistress, so of course she had to escape with him & the others.
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 10:36 am

I assumed Marion Templeton played the landlady until I saw this picture.....Who knows
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 10:52 am

drednm wrote:I assumed Marion Templeton played the landlady until I saw this picture.....


Please! Don't spoil my story!
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 10:57 am

In earlier times, at least in the US, Marion was mostly a man's name...

Edit: Oops, never mind, Marion is a woman actress, she's in the census in Los Angeles.

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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 11:50 am

>He trills the "r's" and also pronounces them at the end of words as well as the other consonants in an endeavour to have clear diction.<

With respect Donald, "r's" should not always trill; it depends on the piece.

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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 12:14 pm

Rick Lanham wrote:In earlier times, at least in the US, Marion was mostly a man's name...

Edit: Oops, never mind, Marion is a woman actress, she's in the census in Los Angeles.

Rick

how old?
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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 12:18 pm

drednm wrote:
Rick Lanham wrote:In earlier times, at least in the US, Marion was mostly a man's name...

Edit: Oops, never mind, Marion is a woman actress, she's in the census in Los Angeles.

Rick

how old?


Tracing her and her mother Florence back to the 1900 Census (to get a more accurate age, I hope), puts her birth year as 1896. So she is about 31/32.

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Re: The Woman Disputed (1928)

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 12:23 pm

wich2 wrote:>He trills the "r's" and also pronounces them at the end of words as well as the other consonants in an endeavour to have clear diction.<

With respect Donald, "r's" should not always trill; it depends on the piece.

Happy holidays,
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(Husband of an opera singer)


Both of you mean roll, I assume, which I couldn't do if my life depended on it. Whether it's application be right or wrong, I love the sound of it. Most accomplished--lightest & most delicate--roller I've ever heard was Amelita Galli-Curci.
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