Cinevent Notes Past: THE FINAL EXTRA (1927)

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Richard M Roberts
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Cinevent Notes Past: THE FINAL EXTRA (1927)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:20 am

This is the kind of movie that those of a sensitive artistic nature may whine and moan about because it ain’t friggin’ SUNRISE or some other USDA-stamped prime choice bonafide four-star acknowledged by the experts classic, but for those who’ve seen all the titles in the Joe Franklin book or who like an entertaining little time-killer that they most-likely have never seen before, THE FINAL EXTRA is right up your alley.

An unpretentious mystery-thriller from Gotham Productions, one of the lesser-known independents, this six-reeler tracks Pat Riley (Grant Withers), up and coming young newspaper columnist who admires the paper’s ace reporter Tom Collins (Frank Beal), who’s cracking a ring of bootleggers while Riley’s covering the new musical review opened by shady producer Mervyn Leroy (John Miljan, and no similarity to the movie director of the same name as far as we know). When he discovers that Tom Collins has been murdered by the bootleggers, he teams with Collins’ Daughter Ruth (Marguerite De La Motte) to solve the crime. Ruth is also a dancer in Leroy’s show, and busies herself tapping her tootsies and fighting off Leroy’s advances while helping Riley find her Father’s killers.

Yep, that’s it, and you’ll forget it an hour after you watched it, but it’s all put together in an efficient, nicely directed and photographed package that shows how good bread and butter pictures could be in the days when going to the movies was the thing to do several times a week before the boob tube turned us all into couch spuds. And those mad Grant Withers fans (there has to be at least one, right next to those obsessed Conway Tearle, Thomas Meighan, Conrad Nagel and Ralph Graves groupies) will be happy to know that this was his first starring feature, as well as one of his few silents. Withers had been an insurance man who bounced around pictures doing bit roles in short comedies and Fox features who gradually worked his way up to this starring lead. Soon Warner Brothers snapped him up for leads as talkies came in, thinking his rugged irish good looks made him star material. He made some good early talkies like THE SECOND STORY MYSTERY (1930) and OTHER MENS WOMEN (1931), in which he was supported by James Cagney (ironically, Withers would support Cagney two decades or so later in RUN FOR COVER (1954)) then caused some controversy in 1930 when he eloped with Loretta Young, who proved a bit too young (seventeen years) to do that sort of thing, and the marriage was annulled. Yet leave it to the Brothers Warner not to miss out on a publicity hubbub, so they teamed Withers and Young in the picture TOO YOUNG TO MARRY in 1931.

Withers Irish looks also coincided with other less-savory aspects of the Irish personality, and his drinking and carousing soon ended his Warner’s contract, as well as his bid for major stardom. However, he continued to prove good value to the minors, and he found plenty of employment on Poverty Row, starring in serials like THE FIGHTING MARINES (1935) for Mascot, and JUNGLE JIM (1937) for Universal. Withers also played Police Captain Street (Sam or William was the first name depending on the picture) to Boris Karloff and Keye Luke’s Mr. Wong in all six of the Monogram series. He slipped into character parts in the 40’s, becoming one of John Ford’s and John Wayne’s drinking cronies, guaranteeing him work with both close friends in pictures like MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) , FORT APACHE(1948), THE FIGHTING KENTUCKIAN (1949) AND RIO GRANDE (1950) . The fifties found Withers busy in television and remarried (John Wayne was his best man at the wedding), but failing health, weight gain, and depression drove Grant Withers to commit suicide in 1959.

Marguerite De La Motte had trained as a ballet dancer with the legendary Anna Pavlova, but found her way to movies in late teens, being discovered by Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who made her his leading lady in THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920) , THE NUT and THE THREE MUSKETEERS (both 1921). Winsome and charming she was, but sadly, these roles with Fairbanks did not lead to any major studio connection, though she kept extremely busy throughout the twenties at the smaller studios like Gotham Productions. Fairbanks brought her back to reprise her role of D’Artangan’s love Constance Bonacieux in THE IRON MASK (1929), but as talkies came in, her career waned, unfortunate because her speaking voice and acting skills were fine as seen in her appearance in one of Buck Jones’ early talkies SHADOW RANCH(1930). She reappeared in some bit-roles in the early forties, but then disappeared from public view, passing away in 1950 at the tragically young age of forty-eight.

Despite the sad stories of THE FINAL EXTRA’s two leads, nothing sorry about monumental movie meanie John Miljan, whose career spanned four decades. South Dakota-born, from Serbian descent (real name : Jovan Miljanovic), his tall moustached suavity found itself tinged with shade before the cameras, and he was busy throughout the twenties playing sundry salacious swine for most of the studios in films like THE DEVILS CIRCUS (MGM 1926), THE YANKEE CLIPPER (Pathe’ 1927) OLD SAN FRANCISCO (Warners 1927) and GLORIOUS BETSY (Warners 1928). Talkies were a boon to the stage-trained actor, in fact his voice was so effective he was chosen by Warner Brothers to emcee their first talkie trailer to THE JAZZ SINGER (1927). Though he continued to play many louts throughout the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, Miljan also essayed the occasional good-guy in films like THE GHOST WALKS (1934), MURDER AT GLEN ATHOL (1936) and even played General Custer in Cecil B. Demille’s THE PLAINSMAN (1936). A happily married family man, John Miljan passed away in 1960.

Director James Hogan was another hard-working professional who kept busy grinding out interesting programmers for a variety of studios. For some reason, a number of Hogan’s films seem to have a fixation with life and death, perhaps because stunt-flyer Omer Locklear, the leading man of Hogan’s first directorial effort, THE SKYWAYMAN (Fox 1920) was killed during the shooting of the picture. Hogan helmed such interesting and diverse examinations of the fine line between this world and the next as CAPITAL PUNISHMENT (Preferred Pictures 1925) and LIFE RETURNS (Scientart- Universal 1935). Hogan also handled two entertaining detective series, the Bulldog Drummonds for Paramount (1936-39),and the Ellery Queens for Columbia (1940-42), as well as making two very bizarre and entertaining Universal programmers, THE STRANGE DEATH OF ADOLPH HITLER (1942) and THE MAD GHOUL (1943) just before his early death from a heart attack in 1943.

Gotham Productions was a very early enterprise of independent producer Sam Sax , formed in 1925 and closing in 1929 rather than retooling for sound, Despite the company’s low-budgets and states-rights distribution, the surviving Gotham films seem to be of pretty decent quality, using good if cheaper-ticket actors and strong scripts, with good camerawork by Ray June and others. Gotham’s better existing efforts include the railroad melodrama THE BLOCK SIGNAL (1926) starring Ralph Lewis and a young Jean Arthur, and THROUGH THE BREAKERS (1928), a tropical island melodrama starring Holmes Herbert, Margaret Livingston, and Clyde Cook. Gotham Productions also holds the dubious distinction of producing the first feature film to be broadcast on American Television, with its 1925 feature THE POLICE PATROL airing one-reel a day on experimental station W2XCD in Passaic, New Jersey the week of April 6, 1931.

Well, with all this background on the participants of THE FINAL EXTRA plugged into your brain, let’s hope this fun little film entertains. The print is a beautiful reduction made from an original 35mm nitrate that managed to stray from its exchange years ago as so many independent films have seemed to. No spare prints of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT ever sitting in people’s basements, it’s usually titles like this. Nevertheless, all films deserve a run once in awhile, so this is THE FINAL EXTRA’S latest chance to divert us for an hour, just as it did in a lot of small-town neighborhood houses for a day or two back in 1927.




RICHARD M ROBERTS

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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE FINAL EXTRA (1927)

Postby Gary Johnson » Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:22 am

It hasn't been mentioned on this site yet, but what with next March being the final Cinefest in Syracuse, the ranks are truly thinning among classic film conventions.
Are there any signs of Cinevent thinking of tossing in the towel also -- or is it still healthy?

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE FINAL EXTRA (1927)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:23 am

Gary Johnson wrote:It hasn't been mentioned on this site yet, but what with next March being the final Cinefest in Syracuse, the ranks are truly thinning among classic film conventions.
Are there any signs of Cinevent thinking of tossing in the towel also -- or is it still healthy?



Cinevent is still kickin and breathin', but none of us are getting any younger.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Gary Johnson
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE FINAL EXTRA (1927)

Postby Gary Johnson » Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:14 pm

The fella who gave out the notice for Cinefest cited a myriad of reasons as to why it was time to hang up the shingle.....and it wasn't just about the aging audience. He stated that, even with a dedicated team of organizers, it was a pain in the ass to put on a yearly festival (Richard can attest to that), that it has gotten harder to find rarities to book that haven't already turned up on YouTube at one time or another, and that shipping costs of films coming from the archives are getting more outrageous.

And Richard, nice review of an average silent film that is not a classic by any means, but is professionally and competently made and therefore, very entertaining. Those are the types of films that people love finding on TCM. And those are exactly the type of films that audiences use to discover while attending the various film fests that had popped up since the Sixties. So I wonder how films like the one Richard just wrote about will be seen by an audience in the near future, when all classic film fests eventually go the way of all flesh? Not every film in a studio vault will be given a Warner Archives release, will it?

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2002
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE FINAL EXTRA (1927)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:04 am

Gary Johnson wrote:The fella who gave out the notice for Cinefest cited a myriad of reasons as to why it was time to hang up the shingle.....and it wasn't just about the aging audience. He stated that, even with a dedicated team of organizers, it was a pain in the ass to put on a yearly festival (Richard can attest to that), that it has gotten harder to find rarities to book that haven't already turned up on YouTube at one time or another, and that shipping costs of films coming from the archives are getting more outrageous.

And Richard, nice review of an average silent film that is not a classic by any means, but is professionally and competently made and therefore, very entertaining. Those are the types of films that people love finding on TCM. And those are exactly the type of films that audiences use to discover while attending the various film fests that had popped up since the Sixties. So I wonder how films like the one Richard just wrote about will be seen by an audience in the near future, when all classic film fests eventually go the way of all flesh? Not every film in a studio vault will be given a Warner Archives release, will it?



I believe Alpha Video has already duped the Grapevine release of this film, so it is available to all classes.

RICHARD M ROBERTS


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