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12 April 2012

The Crowd (1928) [Silent Film-a-Thon 2] 9#

Directed by: King Vidor


Written by: King Vidor, John V.A. Weaver


Genre: Drama, Romance


USA


Black and White, 98 Minutes




I found out about this film through the 1001 Movies to see before you die book (the film lovers bible), and I was quite impressed with the story. We follow the average man through his life, who is no different from the other millions among the people around him. The film tells a tale of how we, being part of the crowd, can get lost among the crowd when something goes wrong and we step out. The events that happen to our protagonist appear as tragic, but he always strides forward which gives the film a feel-good finale.


We follow the common man born on the year 1900, who we see being brought into the Sims family. We then see him as a 12 year-old boy were the other children are saying what they want to be when they grow up, were we see Simms telling them (through a title card) that he has big plans for when he grows up. Next we see him as a 21 year-old man on his way to New York to fulfil his dream of success. He obtains an office job and on one evening, Bert (Bert Roach), John's co-worker and friend, persuades him to skip his studies and go on a double date with him and Jane (Estelle Clark). Here he meets Mary (Eleanor Boardman), whom he immediately takes romantic interest in. Pretty soon, they get married and from there onwards, we follow John through his financial run, good times and bad.

The impressive thing with King Vidor’s The Crowd is the large sets and locations we see. In addition, effects and we some beautifully constructed transitions that for the time, were reasonably impressive. One scene, we see a room full of accountants in rows of tables and chairs. Here, we see Vidor showing the white-collar working men at their 9-to-5 jobs. An interesting note is, this particular set would be replicated in the future that we even see in The Producers in 2005 were Leo Bloom worked. From Coney Island to vertical panning of towering skyscrapers, the film has excellent cinematography for its time. I also believe it is seen is the Coen brothers film The Hudsucker Proxy, but I have not seen that yet.

The story for the first 35 minutes or so is deliberately following a typical story of a bright headed man who wants to amount to something, who falls in love and keeps striding forth to get his goal. After this, the film begins to become something of its own with a surprisingly touching and engaging story.

The character of John, a man who seeks success never gives up in the end as he always looks forward with determination and perseverance. The strong point of the film is the emotional connection we see between John and his wife Mary. Not too long into the marriage, they have arguments like many relations contain, but they forgive one another in the end.  It is still a relationship formula used today and here, it has been effectively showing a tender relationship between characters.  

King Vidor was passionate about his film, and he polished it off well with the camera work being excellent, the sets being glorious and the story being very captivating. Despite the films popularity today, the film was not very successful at the time, but over time the film has developed critical praise, with some calling it a masterpiece.  In the end, the film is a reminder to us that we should always look ahead no matter what happens; through tragedy, through arguments, through death and through failure.In the end this film shows how great silent films got just as talkies were about to come in, with this sitting among Sunrise, City Lights and Metropolis. 

Verdict: With a definitive story that audiences today will definitely respond to, and innovative filmmaking techniques, The Crowd is a classic silent film that is among the best.

Rating: 8.5/10

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10


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