director Victor Fleming
viewed: 07/13/2012 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA
My favorite of the five films that I saw at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this year was Victor Fleming’s Mantrap. Adapted from a novel by Sinclair Lewis, the film is a comedy of the sexes starring the wonderful, amazing Clara Bow at the top of her “It girl”, “Perfect Flapper” heights.
There are many other charms of this 86 minute film, which features James Wong Howe’s typically vibrant cinematography. But this film belongs to Bow. Noted in the film’s introduction from clips of the time, Variety stated “Clara Bow just walks away with the picture from the moment she walks into camera range.” And per Photoplay “When she is on the screen nothing else matters. When she is off, the same is true.” True then, true today.
Mantrap of the five films I saw was by far the most modern of the films. From the opening shot of a female client’s foot scaling her attorney’s (Percy Marmont), the play and verve of the film feels more like a whip-quick 1930′s screwball comedy, sharper, more clever, and pointed. Bow herself is a sex bomb of her time. When she leaps into the lap of her backwoods sugar daddy, Ernest Torrence, she’s more woman than any of the men in the picture could handle, all in the young, tiny, self-sufficient package. Fleming gets a lot from the character actors who make up most of the background of the film, the hilarious inhabitants of Mantrap, Canada.
What can I say about Clara Bow that hasn’t been said before? All I really need to say is that Mantrap is top fun and that if you haven’t seen it, you really, truly should.