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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A night at the movies

Tuesday, May 14th., Cadogan Square, London.

Invited to a special midnight performance of "Bull-dog Drummond" (the film) at the Tivoli, with Ronald Colman as Drummond. Samuel Goldwyn was the host. I had some people to dinner first, and took them all, and they were all in a state of considerable expectant excitement. A company of about sixty or seventy, as it were clinging together in the middle seats of the dress-circle; the rest of the immense auditorium empty.

The film was stated to be the finest talkie ever done. And perhaps it was. But, as usual with films both silent and talkie, the plot was not clear; and I passed the time in repeated successful efforts to believe the impossible. Indeed the man who first said "Credo quia impossibile" must have foreseen the advent of the cinema.

Bulldog Drummond (1929) is a detective film which tells the story of Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, a British officer bored with civilian life, who investigates an extortion case for a beautiful girl. The film stars Ronald Colman, Claud Allister, Lawrence Grant, Montagu Love, Wilson Benge, Joan Bennett, and Lilyan Tashman. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn and directed by F. Richard Jones, the movie was adapted by Sidney Howard and Wallace Smith from the novels by Herman C. McNeile. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Ronald Colman) and Best Art Direction. Two previous Bulldog Drummond films had been produced: Bulldog Drummond (1923) and Bulldog Drummond's Third Round (1925). The 1929 film was the first Bulldog Drummond movie with sound, and was also Ronald Colman's first talkie

It is curious how a very small audience in a very large theatre is somehow afraid to applaud, and how insincere its applause sounds, even when it is not insincere. Still more curious, and disconcerting, is the appearance of a slim, elegant, fragile, spiritual-faced woman, followed by a terrific booming noise - the lady's voice!

The Tivoli Theatre became the first London cinema to screen proper sound films when in 1925 DeForrest Phonofilm shorts were screened. Also in 1925, it was taken over by MGM/Loew’s and became their showcase theatre. Ramon Novarro in "Ben Hur" was a big hit at the Tivoli Theatre, showing twice daily, it attracted audiences of 1,200,000 during its run. The Tivoli Theatre had a premier run of Goldwyn’s first talkie, Ronald Colman in "Bulldog Drummond", which was a huge hit in August 1929. This was followed by Eddie Cantor in "Whoopiee! and a re-run of "Ben Hur" with sound effects.

At the end we congratulated Samuel Goldwyn, who confidently predicted a very great popular success for the film.

Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) Famed for his relentless ambition, bad temper and genius for publicity,  Goldwyn became Hollywood's leading "independent" producer. Born Shmuel Gelbfisz, in the Jewish section of Warsaw, he was the eldest of six children of a struggling used-furniture dealer. In 1895 he made his way to England, where relatives Anglicized his name to Samuel Goldfish. He reached the US, probably via Canada, in 1898. He gravitated to Gloversville, New York, and became one of the country's most successful glove salesmen. After moving his base of operations to Manhattan Goldfish convinced Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille to go into film production. The new company's first film, The White Man (1914), was one of the first features made in Hollywood. The Goldwyn Co., was founded in 1916 and its most famous legacy was its "Leo the Lion" trademark, which was adopted by its successor company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Touted by publicists for his "Goldwyn touch" he was loathed by many of his hirelings for his habit of ordering films recast, rewritten and recut.

On reaching home at 1.30 a.m. I was so hungry that I had to go down into the larder and find food for myself. Thereby I learnt a lot about my own house that was previously unknown to me.


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