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Friday, 29 September 2017

Not for Sale (1924)

An obscure rarity this week -- but I guess that's what this blog is meant to spotlight. The film is the last in a comedy trilogy (the other two are "His Grace Gives Notice" and "The Mating of Marcus": more obscurities) directed by the then British Comedy King W P Kellino, who started directing silent comedy shorts back in 1910 and founded the Teddington Studios in 1912.

Based on a novel by Monica Ewer, a forgotten writer who was also the film and drama critic for a long-dead daily newspaper, it's a sweet and rather unoriginal tale of Lord Dening, a spoiled young aristocrat with little idea of the value of money, who is cut off by his exasperated father and reduced to living in a struggling Bloomsbury boarding house and finding work to justify his new weekly allowance of £5.00. His snooty fiancĂ©e dumps him in the process (not that the horse-faced bitch was much of a catch) and he soon becomes enamoured of his landlady, the rather more fetching Annie and a curiosity to the other eccentric boarders. "What might you do" asks one old biddy; "I might join the Swiss Navy" he replies. He finds work as a chauffeur for a scatty nouveau riche lady, but loses his job when he is framed for the theft of a diamond brooch. He leaves the house when the other tenants adopt an 'it's him or us' threat against the now 'untrustworthy' crook and he falls into even harder times, forced to seek work in the Kent hop fields. Naturally love wins out in the end and Annie returns the now sickly fellow to the bosom of his high-class family home.

Nearly all of the cast were silent film stalwarts whose careers more or less ended with the coming of sound but who, without exception, give fine performances. Of particular note is Mickey Brantford as Annie's young brother who adopts a secret salute with the young Lord (now calling himself Mr Smith) and who does his best to frighten the other stuffy and elderly tenants with Lon Chaney's 1923 "Hunchback of Notre Dame" grimaces and mechanical mice. Annie is played by the comely Mary Odette, French-born, which may account for her eclipse with the coming of sound. The big exception is Lord Dening himself, played by handsome Ian Hunter in his first film role. Hunter went on to appear in three of Hitchcock's silents and to a notable career in a string of Hollywood classics between 1934 and 1942. Although his first love was the stage, he managed to make over 100 movies, while criss-crossing the Atlantic with a variety of roles in the West End and on Broadway. "Not for Sale" is something of a charmer -- not a great film by any matter of means but a pleasant look at a long-gone slice of 1920s London life.

Now for some housekeeping: There will be no blog next Friday as I balance a week of family celebrations with six tickets for the upcoming London Film Festival. I have one free day in the midst of this, Thursday October 12th and will try to touch base then. 
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