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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

Now We're in the Air (2017 restoration by Národní filmový archiv & San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

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Now We're in the Air (US 1927). D: Frank R. Strayer. Raymond Hatton, Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery. Now We're in the Air (US 1927). D: Frank R. Strayer. Emile Chautard, Louise Brooks. Photo: Louise Brooks Society. Now We're in the Air (US 1927). D: Frank R. Strayer. Raymond Hatton, Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery. Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Margaret Herrick Library. Scene not included in the surviving fragment. Now We're in the Air (US 1927). D: Frank R. Strayer. Louise Brooks. Portrait by Eugene Robert Richee. Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Margaret Herrick Library. Scene not included in the surviving fragment. Now We're in the Air (US 1927). D: Frank R. Strayer. Louise Brooks. Portrait by Eugene Robert Richee. Now We're in the Air (US 1927). D: Frank R. Strayer. Louise Brooks. Portrait by Eugene Robert Richee. Scene not included in the surviving fragment. Sankareita ilmassa / Hjältar i luften / Aviatori per forza (US 1927), D: Frank R. Strayer, story: Monte Brice, Keene Thompson, scen: Tom J. Geraghty, titles: George Marion, Jr., photog: Harry Perry, [2nd camera: Alfred “Buddy” Williams, E. Burton Steene. ed: Carl Pierson.], cast: Wallace Beery (Wally), Raymond Hatton (Ray), Louise Brooks (Griselle Chelaine; Grisette Chelaine), Russell Simpson (Lord Abercrombie McTavish), Emile Chautard (M. Chelaine), Malcolm Waite (Professor Saenger), Duke Martin (Top Sergeant), [uncredited: Mattie Witting (Mme. Chelaine)], prod: Adolph Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky, Paramount, dist: Paramount, rel: 22.10.1927, copy: incompl. (orig. 5798 ft, 6 rl, ca 70′), 35 mm, 1377 ft (fragments of rl. 2, 3, 6), 23 min (20 fps); titles: ENG, source: Národní filmový archiv, Praha, & San Francisco Silent Film Festival, restored: 2017.     Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, e-subtitles in Italian.     Teatro Verdi, 2 Oct 2017. GCM (2017): " It’s hard to imagine anyone at Paramount seriously believing that Mauritz Stiller was well-suited to direct the third World War I-themed comedy pairing of Wallace Beery and Raymond Hatton, but that’s what Film Daily reported on 26 January 1927. Unsurprisingly, the idea didn’t last long, and the following month the same trade paper announced that James Cruze would be the popular duo’s latest director instead. Louise Brooks Society founder Thomas Gladysz found evidence that William Wellman was also attached at some point, which makes quite a bit of sense, but by June the studio revealed that the director for Now We’re in the Air would be Frank R. Strayer, a considerably lesser talent than the original three choices. On this basis, the film’s loss wouldn’t generate more than passing disappointment, but there was another factor to be considered, in the form of its 21-year-old leading lady, Louise Brooks." "Eugene Robert Richee’s playfully seductive portraits of Brooks from the film, saucily posed in a racy black tutu, made the loss even more tantalizing, and the actress’ own declaration that her favorite publicity still was a casual shot of her reading on the set, next to screenwriter Keene Thompson, added to the feeling that we were missing something special. Then came the announcement in 2016 that parts of Reels 2, 3, and 6 were discovered at the Národní filmový archiv in Prague (the cans were labeled with its Czech title, Rif a Raf, Politi), making the incomplete Now We’re in the Air footage the sole surviving element from any of the four films Brooks made in 1927. Sadly, Brooks appears in only about 5 minutes of the newly found fragments, but it’s hard to look anywhere else when she’s on screen. Though purely decorative, she exudes a timelessness, relaxed and informal, that stands out for modern audiences when contrasted with the broad-based comedy around her." "It’s important to remember that Brooks was just in her second year making movies, and her contribution was always secondary: production files at the Margaret Herrick Library show she was paid $500 a week, which was $50 a week less than actor Malcolm Waite’s salary. On the other hand, Beery was getting $3,000, and Hatton $2,000. The main stars had already appeared in two other comedies with military backgrounds, Behind the Front and We’re in the Navy Now (both 1926 and both directed by Brooks’ husband, Eddie Sutherland), and Paramount cleverly chose to complete the armed services trilogy with an air force setting just when aviation mania was sweeping the globe following Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight in May 1927. Profiting from the hoopla, advertisements hailed Beery and Hatton as “loony Lindberghs.”" "Although Strayer (1891-1964) was a largely workmanlike director whose career highlight was a string of “Blondie” films in the late 1930s and early 40s, the cinematographer, Harry Perry, had a knack for aerial photography: in 1923 he shot The Broken Wing, and four months before Now We’re in the Air he’d finished work on Wings, together with second cameramen Alfred “Buddy” Williams and E. Burton Steene, also collaborating here (Perry and Steene later shot Hell’s Angels). Aside from Brooks’ presence, it’s these aerial moments that generate the most interest in the surviving footage, some of which, during the Armistice scene, was actually left over from Wings, no doubt used as a cost-saving measure – perhaps Paramount had blown their budget when they rented 15 planes to add to the authenticity and thrills." "The plot is predictably silly: Beery and Hatton are Wally and Ray, a couple of bumbling cousins scheming to get their aristocratic Scottish grandfather’s inheritance by appealing to his love of aviation. Once on the Continent during the War, the two fall for twin sisters Grisette and Griselle, one raised in France, the other in Germany – Brooks plays both characters, though the surviving footage only shows Grisette, a tutu-clad carnival entertainer, and not Griselle in her peasant bodice and kerchief. Wally and Ray wind up in the U.S. air service, but get blown into enemy territory in a circus balloon, where they’re mistaken for sympathizers. The Germans think they can use them as spies so send them back across the lines, where they’re finally able to make things right after nearly being blown up. Critic Wilella Waldorf, in the New York Evening Post, was not amused: ” Mr. Beery and Mr. Hatton have been seen so often to kick each other that it has ceased exactly to be a fountain of wit.” However, Alfred Greason was far more positive in Variety, praising the aerial photography and the succession of gags, notwithstanding “an utter disregard of the finer aspects of wit and humor.” " Jay Weissberg AA: This fragment of 23 minutes has brought film aficionados a lot of joy. Now We're in the Air is an action comedy set in WWI. In its surviving footage a spy is found at a carnival, and there is some thrilling action, perhaps a bit like Laurel and Hardy in Liberty, as Wallace Beery and Raymond Hatton are caught in a hot air balloon which takes them across enemy lines. An epic battleground scene is included. For five minutes Louise Brooks lights up the screen by her mere presence as the carnival dancer Grisette. Very watchable from scratched fragments with tinting simulated.

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