director King Vidor
viewed: 07/19/2013 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA
This year, I only managed to see two films at the always anticipated San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Chorus (1931) and King Vidor’s The Patsy, considered to be star Marion Davies’ finest performance.
Davies is a scream in The Patsy, a comedy of romantic errors about a young girl Pat (Davies) who pines for her older sister (the very beautiful Jane Winton) Grace’s boyfriend. It doesn’t help that Grace is rather capriciously chasing a different young rich man, or that their mother, the impeccably hilarious Marie Dressler, is all for Grace and none for Pat. Her father, Dell Henderson, sides with her, but typically folds to the overbearing Dressler in all cases.
The script is funny, certainly. Oddly packed with verbal jokes, it’s more significantly the set-up for these consummate performers. Marie Dressler is one for the ages. She pulls faces, does double-takes, even enunciates remarkably when she is shouting, a definitive comedic actor.
But Davies is the core of the whole. Known more for being the William Randolph Hearst’s mistress, and pawn to his attempts to make her a star, she shines vividly here with her pronouncedly unique personality and gags. She has any number of wonderful facial and physical responses, but her three comedic impressions of actresses Mae Murray, Lillian Gish and Pola Negri are a total scream. She’s as funny and adept as an screen actress in any movie ever. And it’s quite a shame that this is one of such few films that she had to really show her stuff. At least we do have it.
None of what I’m saying here is new. This film has been highly regarded for these very reasons for ages. I’m just adding my two bits to the same.