Thursday, June 29, 2017

Young Desire

Young Desire (1930). Mary Nolan as Helen Herbert and Mae Busch as May Roberts. Mae Busch "the versatile vamp" had an interesting career. She was one of the "Princesses" at Riviera in Erich von Stroheim's Foolish Wives. She was a great comedienne at the Hal Roach Studio, often with Laurel & Hardy.

Dödssprånget / La mongolfiera della morte
Director: Lewis B. Collins. Year: 1930. Country: USA
Section: Universal Pictures: the Laemmle Junior Years (Part Two)
    Sog.: dalla pièce Carnival di William R. Doyle. Scen.: Winifred Reeve, Matt Taylor. F.: Roy Overbaugh. M.: Charles Craft. Mus.: Sam Perry.
    Int.: Mary Nolan (Helen Herbert), William Janney (Bobby Spencer), Ralf Harolde (Blackie), Mae Busch (May Roberts), George Irving (signor Spencer), Claire McDowell (signora Spencer). Prod.: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. 35mm. D.: 68’. Bn.
    [Not released in Finland].
    From: Universal, a Comcast Company.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Screened with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti at Cinema Jolly, 27 July 2017

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Another of Hollywood’s tragic blondes, the hauntingly beautiful Mary Nolan first found fame as a Ziegfeld Girl under the name Imogen ‘Bubbles’ Wilson. But when her married lover, Ziegfeld comedian Frank Tinney, beat her so badly that she landed in the hospital, the subsequent scandal forced her to leave the country. It is said that the gambler Arnold Rothstein financed her trip to Germany, where she changed her name to ‘Imogene Robertson’ and appeared in seventeen films. Returning to the US in 1928 as Mary Nolan, she found work at Universal, then went to MGM where she appeared as Lon Chaney’s brutalized daughter in Tod Browning’s West of Zanzibar and began another abusive relationship with the studio’s notorious fixer, Eddie Mannix. A beating from Mannix led to six months in the hospital and the beginnings of a morphine addition that eventually ended her working life."

"In 1930, Nolan returned with Browning to Universal where, now a star, she toplined Outside the Law and a handful of other films, including this memorably sordid melodrama in which she appears as a carnival hoochie coochie dancer who dreams of quitting the trade and marrying a naive young man (William Janney) from a wealthy provincial family. The director, Lewis B. Collins, does not have Browning’s flair for degradation, but the carnival milieu – a constant in so many films of the early Depression – is well observed, and Nolan has a disturbingly distant, resigned quality, as if she were drifting through a story – of hope inevitably disappointed – that she had encountered many times before."

"The film’s startling conclusion, alas, anticipates Nolan’s own unhappy fate. After a battle with director Ernst Laemmle on the set of What Men Want, Universal bought out Nolan’s contract and the rest of her career became a sad progression of Poverty Row films, lawsuits, arrests for petty crimes and hospitalizations. An overdose of Seconal ended her life in 1948. She was forty-five years old." Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: Helen the carnival girl wants to step out of the cheap grind and gets a ride from a nice young guy, Bobby, who is decent and innocent and eager to help her without strings attached. But they do fall in love. Bobby is the heir of the rich family of Spencer of Spencerville. His father laughs at Bobby's romance, and mother (played by the D. W. Griffith veteran Claire McDowell) does all she can to separate the young. All to the effect of alienating Bobby to the point that he is not going back to college. He will marry Helen and provide with his own work.

But Bobby's parents manage to scare Helen away, and she returns to the carnival. First when Bobby leaves home and follows Helen do the parents realize how deep their love is, and father changes his mind about Helen. Helen with no experience in aerial acrobatics rises to the sky in a hot air balloon and jumps without a parachute.

Directed by Lew Collins from a screenplay by Winifred Reeve and Matt Taylor based on a story by William R. Doyle there is bite in the approach to this tragic story of love across the tracks. The daily grind of the carnival feels believable.

The presence of Mary Nolan is extraordinary. Helen is introduced in a state of profound disillusion. Her sincere romance with Bobby revives her from desperation. The shock is the greater when she resigns from Bobby after a meeting with his mother, who appears at her place like a dark angel. Helen returns to the carnival with her head down, with a stooping posture, like a bird whose wings have been broken. The vision of the deep sorrow she projects is haunting.

A brilliant print.


Helen Herbert, a dancer in a carnival sideshow, wearying of her drab life, leaves the show and falls in love with young Bobby Spencer, who insists on helping her. She hesitates to marry him, however, because of her past, but he insists. Realizing that their marriage would alienate Bobby's family and jeopardize his future, Helen returns to the carnival, and though Bobby follows, Helen's companions keep her concealed from him. After a talk with his father, Helen resolves the dilemma by volunteering for a balloon ascension and leaps to her death. 

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