Friday, 8 December 2017

Bulldog Drummond [film]

I reviewed the first four Bulldog Drummond novels all the way back in 2010 (yes, this blog really has been going that long!) and I was not a fan. Nonetheless, when the 1929 early talkie came on Talking Pictures TV I Tivoed it, and today got a chance to sit down and watch it - I got through both my print deadlines earlier this week, and both magazines went on time, so I treated myself to a day off.

The date was the thing that grabbed me; you don't often get 1920s films on telly so I wasn't going to waste it, and early talkies are fascinating. This film was adapted from the stage play of Bulldog Drummond, and you can see it in the way the action is confined mainly to a few rooms. It probably made sense given the limitations of early sound technology.

Another reason for watching it was that it had Lilyan Tashman in. Who's Lilyan Tashman? A former Ziegfeld Follies girl, like many a Hollywood beauty, she was also known for being one of the best-dressed women in Tinseltown before her death at 37 from cancer. Given her early death and scandalous life (her lovers included Greta Garbo) you'd think her name would have lingered in the popular consciousness, but it hasn't.

So, the film: did I dislike it as much as the novel? Not at all. Stripped of the authorial voice, and with a smaller cast of characters than there are in the books, pretty much all of what I found problematic has gone. Ronald Colman is much more handsome than the Drummond of the books, but that's Hollywood for you. Called in by Phyllis Benton (played by Joan Bennett), who suspects the hospital her rich uncle is in is actually being run by a gang of ne'er-do-wells, he has to defeat the gang, rescue the uncle and Phyllis, and generally Save The Day.
Montagu Love plays villain Carl Peterson, but he really is outshone by Lilyan Tashman as Irma. Irma's main costume is a pale satin late 20s evening gown, bias cut with false flowers at the top, and with a splendid bunching of flowers at one hip. Sometimes she covers it with a black wrap -– velvet, perhaps? – edged in a deep border of white fur. Phyllis simply can't compete either. Visually, Bulldog Drummond reminds me a lot of the horror films of the 1930s in its sweeping staircases and use of shadows, something I hadn't expected at all.

All in all, one of those rare instances where the film is vastly better than the book!

4 comments :

  1. I had an audiobook of a Bulldog Drummond book, and like you found it terribly dated. I did see a 30s film adaptation that wasn't tooo awful, but this one sounds as if it has far more redeeming qualities!

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  2. I haven't read any of the books or seen the film so I will keep an eye out for it. That dress looks lovely. Nice to hear that you have been having some well deserved time off and congratulations on getting your mags off on time. Have a great weekend! Xx

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  3. On Ms Tashman-
    "On September 21, 1925, Tashman married longtime friend Edmund Lowe, the well-known actor. The two became the darlings of Hollywood reporters and were touted in fan magazines as having "the ideal marriage". Tashman was described by reporter Gladys Hall as "the most gleaming, glittering, moderne, hard-surfaced, and distingué woman in all of Hollywood". The couple entertained lavishly at "Lilowe", their Beverly Hills home, and their weekly party invitations were highly sought after. Her wardrobe cost $1,000,000, and women around the world clamored for copies of her hats, gowns, and jewelry. Servants were ordered to serve her cats afternoon tea, and for Easter brunch she had her dining room painted dark blue to provide a contrast to her blonde hair. She once painted her Malibu home red and white, asked her guests to wear red and white, and even dyed the toilet paper red and white."

    Wow, whatta dame!
    Thank you for introducing us to Ms Tashman!

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  4. I haven't read the book, nor have I seen the film, but I'd definitely look out for the latter, even if only to see the notorious Ms Tashman! xxx

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