earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Boblipton's posts led me on a side route to WHAT MADE HER DO IT?, an incomplete film from 1929/30, which despite its missing sections and variable image quality, is nevertheless absorbing viewing. Sumiko is a young girl sent by her father to the city to live with relatives owing to family poverty. On the way, she finds trouble enough, but is taken in by a rickshaw man. At one point, he behaves suspiciously, but he has only put a silver coin in her purse for luck. What she doesn't know is that her father has killed himself, and the uncle takes full advantage of her plight, putting her to work rather than sending her to school. Shortly after, an unsavoury-looking fellow turns up claiming to have known her father, but this seems like nonsense as the uncle then sells her to the horrid fellow, who runs a circus.
The circus is not the best of places to work, to put it mildly, and she escapes with a friend who is hurt in an accident, leaving Sumiko to fare alone... To tell more would not be a good idea, but WHAT MADE HER DO IT? (you will have to wait to find out the meaning of the title) is a powerful story of an innocent caught up in a harsh world of poverty, exploitation, despair and religious hypocrisy. There is an element of humour in one section where she is sent to work for a bourgeois family with one of the most spoilt daughters I have seen in a film.
WHAT MADE HER DO IT? was very highly regarded when first released, but misfortune seems to have accompanied it over the years. What we see here is only a shadow of the original film, but a shadow which is superior to many a film which has had better fortune.
I saw this some time ago and had it indicated with a question mark, because it was preserved at Gosfilmfond, where films often survived in forms that had been severely edited for political commentary. The copy of the Mabel Normand feature Molly O'
they held had, according to a lecture before a showing at Slapsticon in 2006, had all the jokes removed to turn it into a serious drama on the oppression of the lower classes (fortunately, the gags survived and were being reinserted). Although indication are that What Made Her Do It
had not required such extreme editing, my issues with understanding early Japanese cinema made me suspicious.
Nonetheless, it appears to be an antecedent of several other films of the 1930s which show the poverty of the displaced classes, particularly several efforts by Ozu and the Gosho film I reviewed the other day. Still, I am hesitant to review works that have been seriously reworked by other hands after their release.... or even by the original hands long after their original releases. ( Raise your hand if you like the 1942 rerelease of The Gold Rush
). This movie falls under that purview, which you have properly noted.