Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Jean Hersholt "The Battle of the Sexes" 1928
"The Battle of the Sexes" (1928) is a silent romantic comedy starring Jean Hersholt, Phyllis Haver, Belle Bennett, Sally O' Neil, and Don Alvarado. Directed by pioneer filmmaker D. W. Griffith and based on the novel by Daniel Carson Goodman, this film is a "Jazz Age" sex farce. Phyllis Haver plays Marie Skinner, a young blonde gold digger who sets up a ploy with her lover Babe Winsor, played by Don Alvarado, to snag a happily married middle-aged real estate tycoon, William Judson, played by Jean Hersholt. Marie moves into Judson's apartment building and carries out a plan to meet and seduce him. Smitten by the charms and the flattery of Marie, Judson falls for her. In the meantime, Mrs. Judson, played by Belle Bennett, and the couple's two teenage children don't suspect until they accidentally catch him dancing with the blonde at a nightclub when he is supposed to be working late. Mrs. Judson and the children leave before the father catches them. When Mrs. Judson confronts her husband about the affair, they separate. At this point, the depressed wife considers suicide which drives the couple's distraught teenage daughter, played by Sally O'Neil, to confront Marie and beg her to leave her father while pointing a revolver in her direction. What will be the outcome of this story?
"The Battle of the Sexes" is perhaps the most stylish and sophisticated film D.W. Griffith directed in his legendary career which began at the dawn of cinema in 1908, and ended a few years into the sound era in the early 1930's. With its lavish settings and top notch photography, this film is a pleasure to watch. It is a very entertaining film made even more enjoyable due to perfect picture quality and an excellent musical score. "The Battle of the Sexes" is quite an emotional story with Griffith's balance of drama, humor and suspense. I was quite impressed with Griffith's use of lingering shots to convey the feelings and interactions of the characters. All the actors are perfectly cast. Jean Hersholt gives one of his finest performances as a middle-aged man who is taken for a fool by a gold digging flapper. The scene in which he uses an exercise machine in order to make himself look younger is comical. Phyllis Haver, who started in Mack Sennetts's productions, plays the role of the seductive gold digger with energy and humor. One of the funniest scenes is when Haver attempts to attract Hersholt by placing her shirt to show more cleavage. The most emotional scenes are near the end of the film where there are confrontations between the father and the daughter and the gold digger and her real lover. Perhaps what impresses me the most about this film is that it is much less preachy than other Griffith's classics such as "The Birth of a Nation" and "Intolerance." Thoroughly modern and appealing, "The Battle of the Sexes" is a fine example of cinema styles just one year before the advent of talkies.