The Law of Contact

The Great Gabbo (September 12, 1929)

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The Great Gabbo
 

Released on September 12, 1929: (running time 1 hour and 36 minutes) An angry ventriloquist chases his assistant away before he realizes that he needs her much more than she needs him.

Produced by James Cruze

Directed by James Cruze and Erich von Stroheim

The Actors: Erich von Stroheim (The Great Gabbo), Betty Compson (Mary), Donald Douglas (Frank), Marjorie Kane (Babe), George Grandee (the voice of Otto), John F. Hamilton (neighbor), Harry Ross (performer), Marbeth Wright (dancer)

 

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We Only Get Out of Life What We Put Into It

The 1920’s in America are remembered as the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ All alcohol was illegal, so there was more of it swishing around the big cities than ever before. Secretive Speak Easies were entertaining the folk who had the secret password to get inside, where the alcohol and entertainment ran wild. In New York City, Broadway was packing them in for extravagant shows, and Vaudeville performers were touring the country to bring a bit of the big city to the world.

Motion Pictures were increasingly popular, and in 1928 and 1929 they started adding sound to the moving picture stories. 78rpm phonograph records were also becoming very popular, and someone got the bright idea to record the speech and background noises on a 78rpm gramaphone, or phonograph record. One crew filmed the action, and another crew handled microphones and machines that would record the sounds. For outdoor scenes, the action was filmed, and then the actors would go to a sound booth to record their words, with background noises like car engines and birds and music added later.

In the theater, the projectionist would start the film projector and a record player at the same time, and usually the sound matched the pictures fairly well. Of course, the producers needed near-perfect timing to match the sound recordings from each scene to the pictures of each scene, so a new device was created, called a movie clap-board.

This board had the scene number written on it in chalk, with a hinged piece of wood at the top, and when the cameraman began recording, and the sound people began recording, a stage hand would hold the clapboard in front of the camera and clap it down very hard and loud. Later, in the editing room, the sound editor would go to the sound of the clap, and the picture editor would go to the picture of the clapboard being clapped, matching the sound of the clap on the record to the picture of the clap on the movie. This is one of the very first talking motion pictures ever created.

In this story, Vienna born actor Erich von Stroheim is a ventriloquist who has multiple anger issues. As our drama begins, his stage partner, played by Betty Compson, has had enough of his verbal abuse and when he tells her to go away and leave him, she does. This leads to that and the two meet again in a Broadway Vaudeville production, but while the proud and vain ventriloquist would love to have his beautiful assistant back again, she has already fallen in love with another actor, and is torn between her memories of the past and her lover of the present.

A couple of weeks after this movie premiered, the stock market crashed, the Great Depression began, and the roaring good days of the 1920’s quickly became a memory. But this day, the stars of Broadway are shining bright and the performers are ready to entertain us. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.

Betty Compson
Betty Compson
Betty Compson and Donald Douglas
Betty Compson and Donald Douglas
Betty Compson and Otto
Betty Compson and Otto
Betty Compson and the valet named Louis
Betty Compson and the valet named Louis
Betty Compson and Donald-Douglas
Betty Compson and Donald-Douglas
Donald Douglas
Donald Douglas
Donald Douglas and Betty Compson
Donald Douglas and Betty Compson
Donald Douglas and Betty Compson
Donald Douglas and Betty Compson
Donald Douglas and Betty Compson
Donald Douglas and Betty Compson
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Otto the dummy
Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Otto the dummy
Erich von Stroheim and Betty Compson
Erich von Stroheim and Betty Compson
Erich von Stroheim and Otto
Erich von Stroheim and Otto
John F. Hamilton
John F. Hamilton
Marbeth Wright and Marjorie Kane
Marbeth Wright and Marjorie Kane
Marjorie-Babe-Kane
Marjorie-Babe-Kane
Marjorie Kane
Marjorie Kane
Marjorie Kane and Donald Douglas
Marjorie Kane and Donald Douglas
Marjorie Kane
Marjorie Kane
two stage hands
two stage hands