No time tonight to write a long posting, but I just wanted to say that I’ve seen yet another Wellman pre-Code. This one, Chinatown Nights, a romantic gangster melodrama starring Wallace Beery, Florence Vidor and Warner Oland, isn’t a great film – though I saw it on an extremely grainy unofficial DVD, and I’m sure it would look much better in a restored print on the big screen. I know it has been shown at one or two festivals so presumably there must be a better print available. The cinematography, by Henry Gerrard, who also worked on Wellman’s classic Beggars of Life, was clearly stunning, with haunting scenes full of dramatic shadows – even though a lot of this has been lost in the print I saw.
Dangerous Paradise is yet another very obscure early William A Wellman film – it isn’t on DVD, is never shown on TV, and the copy I got hold of has a dodgy picture and a lot of soundtrack noise. Nevertheless, I really like it. Once again, as very few people are likely to see it, I’ll keep my posting short. This film was actually the director’s fourth talkie, but it’s the earliest one I’ve managed to see so far, and has quite a bit in common with his silent masterpieces Wings and Beggars of Life, including the fact that it stars Richard Arlen. However, the film it most resembles is Wellman’s acclaimed though little-known Safe In Hell, made the following year. Both are the stories of women forced to be tough by circumstances, who find themselves on remote tropical islands besieged by an assortment of threatening males.