The BBC's ornate 'royal microphone' from the 1930s revealed
I'm probably the only vintage blogger who hasn't yet seen the (I can now say "Oscar-winning") film The King's Speech but rest assured I definitely will, be it on the big screen or DVD (or maybe both!).
In the meantime here is a clip from yesterday's Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House during which a member of the Corporation's in-house museum brought along an original example of the so-called "royal microphones" (above) that, as he explains, were first designed in the 1920s to hide the ugly(!) B.B.C. devices from His Majesty's view! The ones used in the Colin Firth film are exact replicas of this gloriously Art Deco-style piece of radio equipment, which the B.B.C. allowed the film's production crew to look over when recreating them. Even better, they still work! Is it me, or does it sound better when the presenter switches from his modern mic to the old '30s one? ;-)
What's more it sounds as though we may all get a chance to see (and hear?) this part of audio history in the future; amazingly these microphones had until recently only been on view to anyone visiting Broadcasting House but now it seems that the B.B.C. will be lending them out to more public displays (perhaps not so surprising considering the success of the film), so watch (or should that be listen to?) this space!
Monday, 28 February 2011
Friday, 25 February 2011
Right from the off we are again given the sobering reminder of just how great a problem organised crime was in the 1920s and 1930s and how it affected the average man in the street. One can readily detect the influence of Howard Hughes in the directness of these opening titles (although he was forced to put them in by the censors).
From the opening shot this has all the hallmarks of a classic gangster film. An illuminated street sign amid anonymous, looming buildings sets the mood.
Boss of the South Side, Louis Costillo (Harry J. Vejar), has just thrown a huge party. Little does he know it will be the last party he ever hosts.
|Miles and miles of paper streamers. I've said it before and I'll say it again, why can't more parties have them these days?|
|Ahem. Less of that, though, thank you very much! Quite risqué for 1932 and further evidence of Howard Hughes' insistence for realism.|
|Our first glimpse of Tony Camonte, as he despatches Louis Costillo. Director Howard Hawks makes clever use of shadows throughout this film, as you will see.|
|I've only included this newspaper editor for that fact that he is wearing a strikingly busy tie.|
|Unlike the effete and seemingly ineffectual Law in Little Caesar, or the practically non-existent police in The Public Enemy, the cops in Scarface are proper hard-nosed tough guys.|
|They wear pretty standard 1930s men's fashion - dark 3-piece suits and trilbys. Tough and stylish.|
|And in case you were still in any doubt as to whose side they're on, they do that thing of hooking their thumbs into their waistcoats so that you can see their badges. A lot.|
|Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) may only be a two-bit henchman at this point but, despite the lack of a tie, he still dresses pretty well. The checked suit is a nice counterpoint to the plain ones of the police.|
|Guino Rinaldo (George Raft) is certainly the better dressed of the two throughout the film.|
|Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins, left) congratulates Tony on a job well done and appoints him his second-in command.|
|Poppy (Karern Morley). A dressing table and some silk nightwear for the ladies to pore over.|
|It's not clear who the young woman in the background is, but she wears a lovely polka dot dress.|
|Tony gives Cesca (Ann Dvorak) some of his money from Lovo to take her mind off the latest man he's just chased out of the house.|
|Hughes was adamant that the film should be "as grisly, as realistic as possible". Hence several instances of murdered mobsters being thrown from moving cars.|
|Angelo is by no stretch of the imagination the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he is loyal, tough (as we shall see later) and dresses well with a nice homburg, wing collar and checked tie ensemble.|
|Tony's predilection for gaudy clothing hasn't abated, sadly. Poppy's hat, blouse(?) and belted jacket is a much better, more understated look.|
|Gaffney checks his "pineapple". Yes, you're not wrong - it's Boris Karloff, fresh from his appearance in Frankenstein, and still to appear in The Mummy later in 1932.|
|Gaffney's henchman wears the contrasting dark suit/ light cap well, but the boss's 3-piece and trilby are the equal of them.|
|Poppy's still wearing the same blouse and jacket, but she's changed her hat. The black's a nice contrast compared to the previous white, and the feather's a pleasant little touch.|
|This is the first time we see a woman in the middle of a gunfight, and it's something of a shock even today.|
|Guino is able to get one of the gunmen and retrieve his Tommy gun. Gaffney beats a hasty retreat, his mission to wipe out Tony and the gang a failure.|
Tony, Poppy and Guino immediately head over to Lovo's offices, where they find that Gaffney has struck there too. He's been equally unsuccessful, though - Lovo is wounded in the arm, but alive. As far as Tony is concerned it is all-out war and he practically usurps Johnny's authority, insisting he find Gaffney and give him a taste of his own medicine. Now Tony has a Tommy gun, and is delighted:
|"Say hello to my little friend!". Whoops, wrong version! ;-) "Look out Johnny, I'm gonna spit!".|
|A beer lorry smashes through a wooden platform.|
|A mobster is gunned down in the street. This is the first of several instance where Howard Hawks includes an 'X' motif to signify a murder by Camonte or his men.|
|A car is shot up and ploughs through a fire hydrant and a lamp-post.|
|In a nod to the real St. Valentine's Day Massacre a group of North Side hoods are lined up against a wall and gunned down. Good use of shadows again and, of course, there is the 'X' motif again.|
|A shot-up car crashes into a railway wagon.|
|Gaffney proves that all you need to play a good game of ten-pin bowling is a waistcoat & tie and a pair of proper shoes. A shame he isn't given the chance to finish the game.|
|I'm loving the whole look of this nightclub!|
|Cesca wears a very simply, elegant black floor-length gown accessorised with large necklace...|
|...which Tony later tries to rip off.|
Cesca is saved by their mother who sends Tony away, more convinced than ever that her son is a lost cause. Meanwhile, Lovo, in a final act of desperation, hires some men to take care of Tony in order to try and get his empire back. As Tony leaves the family home they strike, and a vicious (and again, impressive) car chase ensues.
|The chase ends with both cars careering down a bank. Lovo's men are killed but Tony escapes with only a few injuries.|
|Guino's obviously still spreading himself around at this point, as Tony has to make a couple of 'phone calls before he locates him, including one to this girl who seems to make her furs out of her dead parrots(!) ;-p|
Once he and Guino have dealt with Lovo, Tony heads over to Poppy's place to claim the last bit of the empire. By this time Poppy is more than happy to see him.
|The sign that Tony takes to be a good omen.|
|Cesca sports a brilliant white dress-suit with great cuffs and collar details, plus a simple hat. It's easily the best outfit she's worn in the entire film, in my book.|
Not aware of who the husband is, he gets Cesca's new address from their mother and storms over there. He gets the surprise of his life when the door opens and he sees Guino standing before him. In a moment of madness, Tony pulls out his gun and...
|I mentioned that Angelo was tough. He's just been shot in the stomach twice, yet he still manages to lock the door, climb a flight of stairs, lock another door AND answer the telephone before he finally expires. Now that's tough!|
|It's Poppy on the telephone, but Tony is still insensible and this is the last we see or hear of her.|
(I don't think this is the original trailer to be honest, more likely a later one - perhaps from a 1940s/50s re-release.
This is the last of the Pre-Code crime films in my collection; the next Film Friday (whenever that will be!) will see us return to James Cagney in the 1938 classic Angels With Dirty Faces.
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