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Manhandled is an uproarious comedy from silent screen legend Gloria Swanson. Her most successful collaboration with director Allan Dwan (Stage Struck, Zaza), it tells the story of Tessie McGuire (Swanson), a down-on-her-luck salesgirl who climbs the social ladder by pretending to be a Russian countess. Tessie is a working class gal whose boyfriend Jimmy (Tom Moore) stands her up on a date, so she goes to a sculptor's party instead, where her skill with mimicry makes her a hit. She is hired by a fashionable dressmaking establishment to use her acting skills on their customers. By impersonating a Russian noblewoman she has men at her beck and call. That is, until some authentic Russians arrive, and her scheme is truly put to the test. Manhandled is presented in the most complete version available.
-Brand New 2K Master
-Audio commentary by film historian Gaylyn Studlar
-Booklet essay by film historian Peter Labuza
-Piano score composed and performed by Makia Matsumura
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Swanson plays a shopgirl named Tessie McGuire that works in the clearance section of a superbusy department store for $17 a week. She has a workaholic boyfriend named Jim (who looks 20 years her senior) that is a mechanic by day and a taxi driver at night that she really loves. Problem is that he's so busy working he hardly has time to spend any time with her. They're supposed to get married but Tessie can't really envision any future but one of continuing drudgery and struggling to get by financially.
Tessie's fortunes seem to turn when she is invited to a party that is attended by important artists and rich businessmen. I think they invite her just to liven the party up a bit but also because of her looks. At the party, she is warned again and again that she shouldn't get too involved with the men she meets there because they probably only want her for one thing. But she wants to make more money so she takes jobs with the men, knowing that one of the reasons, even the MAIN reason they are hiring her is that they are attracted to her.
The thing that surprised me the most about this movie is how modern it seems. It reminded me of something the #MeToo movement has overlooked. That women can use sex or the implication of sex to get things THEY want sometimes. I have read accounts of women that claim they were sexually abused or exploited by celebrities like Matt Lauer but if you read closely, particularlly in his case, some of the women were trying to use HIM to further THEIR careers and only bailed out of the relationships when their hoped for promotions, special treatments etc came to an end.
In this movie, Tessie takes jobs with different men, all of whom she has been warned are mashers, simply because they offer her a lot of money. In essence, she is using them as much as they are using her. She dumps each one as soon as they make a move or want more. Then she's on to the next guy as long as they are going to give her a pay raise.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about her ethics. I like the fact that she's trying to use the system. She deserves more. I liked that she was using the cads. I just think this kind of behavior is ignored by the #MeToo movement where all women are pure snow white virgins who are being preyed upon by abhorrent wolves.
I loved Gloria Swanson in this movie. I still think she is kinda odd-looking, almost mannish, but she has a great screen presence and charisma. She's very expressive but not in a over-acting K-drama way. I like the way she moves. The way she gestures. And the fact that this movie is a comedy with some social commentary gives her a lot of range and emotions to deal with, from sadness and seduction to physical comedy and joy. That was a thing that was cool about her. She could switch from sad to gladness in a heartbeat.
The director, Allan Dwan, had an extensive directing career but the only film of his I've ever seen before this is The Sands of Iwo Jima that came out about 20 years after this. I was really impressed by the direction in this film, especially any scenes that involved crowds such as the famous subway scene and in the department store. I'm so used to CG that it's nice to see very busy shots that don't involve computer generated actors. There's just so much more life to old movies like this even though all the actors are dead.
The film quality of this Blu-ray isn't that great but is to be expected from a film released almost a hundred years ago. It's the best version you will probably ever get. It was mastered in 2K from 16mm film elements. This is the most complete version currently available.
I really loved this movie and will also be picking up Stage Struck which reunites Swanson and Dwan again. This Blu-ray also features a lovely piano score by Makia Matsumura and an audio commentary by film historian Gaylyn Studlar.
This is Swanson at her most vital, energetic self. Her impersonations of various celebrities of the day including Pola Negri and Beatrice Lillie are inspired. (At a party she also impersonates Charlie Chaplin for the first time on film, though this segment is not extant.) The archival elements used for this release are as complete as possible, and lovingly restored. Filmed at Astoria’s Paramount Studio, MANHANDLED is mesmerizing with some scenes shot in the New York subways.
The production is lovely, set designs beautifully detailed. And Swanson is captivating….one can not take one’s eyes off her. Her silent film acting was perfection. Interesting too are the appearances of stage dancer Ann Pennington and Lilyan Tashman. And long before his defining MGM 1939 tour-de-force as “The Wizard of Oz,” is Frank Morgan enacting a leading man role.
The weak link in the casting however is Tom Moore, once the brother-in-law of Mary Pickford and who, at age 41, was way too long-in-the-tooth to portray an idealistic young leading man. However, as I wrote in my book Gloria Swanson – The Ultimate Star, Swanson photographed older than her years. And beginning around this time her leading men were, by necessity, required to look older than she. Nonetheless, the romance between Tessie and Jimmy is realistically portrayed, and director Dwan masterfully subdues the energy in the romantic clinches.
Kudos to Kino Lober for releasing these magnificent silent films starring these wonderful legends of classic silent cinema. Watching MANHANDLED validates Swanson’s status as a silent screen great. Her iconic character “Norma Desmond” in SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) was no fluke.
Allan Dwan’s MANHANDLED is a MUST in every film library…..