Celery and Cleavage : The Patsy film review

The-patsy-1928-lobbycardDir: King Vidor (1928) Bo’ness Hippodrome Friday 24th March 2017
Part of the 2017 Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema

Accompanied by Filmorchestra The Sprockets: a six-piece ensemble from the Netherlands, Daphne Balvers (soprano sax), Frido ter Beek (baritone, alto sax), Marco Ludemann (mandolin, banjo, guitar), Jasper Somsen (double bass), Rombout Stoffers (percussion, accordion) and Maud Nelissen (piano), the MGM comedy “The Patsy” was a revelation!
Despite a shaky start, when the projection speed seemed to be faster than the ensemble was used to and had to be restarted, the film – and the audience – settled down to a Marion Davies comedy classic. Known mainly today for her association with William Randolph Hearst the newspaper magnate, in this film she shows us her comedic range and also her skill as a mimic – giving us spot-on impersonations of silent stars Mae Murray, of the bee-stung lips, virginal Lillian Gish and exotic temptress Pola Negri.
Supported by a great cast, including Dell Henderson as her hen-pecked father, Jane Winton as her spoiled brat of a sister and her sister’s long-suffering boyfriend, Orville Caldwell, Marion Davies gives a spirited and sometimes touching performance as the drudge of the family, constantly getting the thin edge of the familial wedge while harbouring a secret passion for her sister’s paramour.
marie dressler marion davies the patsy 1
Marie Dressler: Marion Davies
She almost but not quite, has the film stolen from her by Marie Dressler, who plays her domineering mother, complete with exaggerated looks, double-takes and mannerisms. In one scene at a fancy club during a meal, one of her daughter’s other suitors, played with great gusto by Lawrence Gray, shows off some of his party tricks and launches a stick of celery high up in the air: when it descends, it lands neatly in Ms Dressler’s ample cleavage. A show-stopper!
Marie Dressler + Jane Winton - The Patsy (1928)
Marie Dressler: Jane Winton

The plot, such as it is, consists mainly of Ms Davies attempts to get a “personality” in order to captivate her sister’s beau – with unexpected results. The main reason that this film is remembered today is really the excellent cast, and the fact that it was adapted from a play holds back the cinematic quality of the picture somewhat, despite a high-speed motorboat sequence, which seemed to me to be included by director King Vidor mainly to “open up” the film.

The Hippodrome audience seemed to really enjoy the film and the accompaniment added much to the performance. There is something magical about seeing a good silent film with a great group of musicians delivering a perfect “live” soundtrack.

marion at the hippodrome_the patsyPhoto: Dorota Borowiecka