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We're campaigning for a Special DVD edition of "The Night of the Hunter": Join the cause!
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Monday, September 18, 2006

Would you like to see a special edition DVD of "The Night of the Hunter"? Join the campaign!!

I recently came across a thread in the IMDB message board: it was suggested there that a fine film such as Charles Laughton's only effort behind the camera, "The Night of the Hunter", would deserve to be published in DVD in a good special edition (a regular edition was already released some time ago by MGM/UA).

I think it is a very interesting idea... what about joining forces to present a huge list of petitions to a DVD publisher?

And what could that edition have? well, here's a little list for starters:
:: The film itself, from the recently restored print
:: UCLA Film Preservationist Robert Gitt's documentary "Charles Laughton Directs the Night of the Hunter"(made from deleted and filmed-on-the-set rushes)
:: Simon Callow's 1987 documentary about Laughton (a Yorkshire TV-ITV production)
:: Alternate soundtracks with comments about the film (by surviving members of Cast and Crew, or experts like Simon Callow, Preston Neal Jones or Robert Gitt)
:: Even though it has already been released in CD format maybe it would be a good idea to include the soundtrack with Laughton's narration as originally released.
::... And what about Walter Schumann's score by itself?
:: Other rushes not included in Robert Gitt's documentary
:: Stills from the film
:: Subtitles would also be appreciated (and make the DVD more marketable, ahem)
:: Etc, etc, etc... These are only but a few suggestions, but feel free to add other ideas.

Just imagine your dream DVD edition of "The Night of the Hunter"... Just imagine we can get it, if we ask for it: nobody else is going to do it for us, if we don't.

You can now, if you want to, send your petition

Gloria (playing Capità Enciam)

This is no idle petition... if we succeed, we can try and ask for more. Fellow Laughtonian Pierre Bellemare suggested that future campaigns could be aimed to ask for release of old recordings by Laughton, like "The Storyteller" or his adaptation of Shaw, "Don Juan in Hell" (the recent CD release by Deutsche Grammophon of a Charles Laughton/Ronald Colman Dickens recording suggests that such items have a public)... I would personally add to the list a re-masterized release of the old programmes Laughton did for Norman Corwin: a true delicatessen

E-mail your petition:

Anyone interested in joining forces to ask for the release of a Special Edition DVD of "The Night of the Hunter" is welcome to e-mail a petition.

Please state the name with which you want to appear in the list. You may complement your name with your occupation, or with a geographical reference: alternatively, in the case of those who have a blog, it would be enough with the name of the blog (I will add a link to it if so wished).

You may now e-mail your petition if that is your wish.

E-mail update (Monday September 25th 2006)
If the link above doesn't work in your computer, cut and paste this address to e-mail your petition: campaign.rootingxlaughton@gmail.com

List of petitionaries:

(Last update: Saturday October 10th 2009)

Alicia(La linterna mágica)
Awesome Girl(Austin, Texas, USA Antsy Pants)
Mykal Banta (Florida, USA)
Jean Bass (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)
Pattie Bauer
Ed Bayer & wife (Israel)
Phil Beard (Devon, UK)
Pierre Bellemare (Canada)
Martin Becker (Mainz, Germany)
Wouter van den Berg (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) (Believe the Best, Expect the Worst)
Even Bjerkelien (Lillehammer, Norway)
Laura Boyes, North Carolina Museum of Art Film Curator
Dan Britton (Silver Spring, Maryland, USA)
Mario Calandrella (Italia)
Stewart Chase (San Francisco, USA)
Gwen Christie (Australia)
Bill Coleman (Brooklyn, NY, USA)
Franco Costanzo (Italia)
Vasco Corisco (Lisboa, Portugal)
Pat Cronenberg (Belgium)
Carsten Czarnecki (Munich)
Mark Dawson (Jersey, Channel Islands)
Dev Donnelly
Linda Edwards, Webmistress of the Official Charles Laughton Website
Mary Engelhart (USA)
David Ehrenstein (Strange Twilight Urges )
Olivier Eyquem (waldolydecker.blog.lemonde.fr)
Pierre Fablet (France)
Alan Ferber (USA)
Laure Fernandez (France)
Rod Filbrandt (chowderheadbazoo.typepad.com)
Greg (No Stripes)
Claudio Goldini (Argentina)
William Gambell (Japan)
Eduardo Gavín (Portugal) (Café del artista)
Guely of Sweden (Sweden, Guelyland)
Víctor Guerrero Plumas de Caballo (Barcelona, Spain)
Chadd Harbold (New York, USA)
Ehud Havazelet (University of Oregon)
Ann L. Hemenway
Hunter's Niece
Scott Hurst (Canada)
Paul Kelly (Australia)
Jesse Laughton (Gilbert, AZ, USA)
Maverick (Blogger denizen)
marcbranches (La linterna mágica)
Rick Lucey
Mark Maynard (markmaynard.com)
Marty and Sally (Comcast)
Caspar Milquetoast (Scotland)
Rosalind Mitchell (Enitharmon’s Cave)
Mary Moretti (Warwick, RI)
Adil Ouazzani (Montreal, Canada)
Patrick (justshowstogoyou.blogspot.com)
Clark Perry (Los Angeles, CA, USA) (Clarkblog)
Gloria Porta (Rooting for Laughton)
Elisenda Roca (Barcelona)
Esteban Roldán (Málaga)
Sally Rushbrook (London, UK)
Josh Ryan (Embracing The Boogyman)
Michael Sweeney
Tiziana (Italy) Webmistress of the Robert Mitchum Italian Website
Messrob Torikian, digital artist (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Ola Torstensson (Malmo, Sweden)
Kevin Tosolini (Castroville, CA)
William Turgeon (Maryland, USA)
Janet Vaughn (Hollis, NH)
Chris West (California, USA)
Xavier (Australia)
Fred Zaidman (Los Angeles)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Young man in a three-cornered hat

Update: a new text was added to this post in September 15th, 2006

I recently got this photograph, which has possibly spent ages in the depths of an archive vault, among other ignored treasures. This something more than a mere picture from an old play, it captures...

...A turning point
London, October 1927. The actors appear in "Paul I" a play by Dimitri Merejkowsky about the life the Mad Czar, son of Catherine the Great. George Hayes played the title role. The young man in the three-cornered hat who stands in the middle of the scene is Charles Laughton, whom Komisarjevsky has been rearing since he spotted the flair of his 26-year old student at RADA. Komisarjevsky was an intelligent director who valued talent above looks, and also regarded highly actors with imagination and creativity. He knew the potential of his protegé.

The character played by Laughton is Count Pahlen, one of the conspirators against the emperor, defined as Machiavelian by one reviewer. James Agate, who praised his performance, said that in his work "(...) there was suggestion of enough intellectual vigour to go round a dozen plays" which well describes Laughton's prodigal way of acting: he would never treat as unimportant a secondary character, he would make a living being even out the most humble of stage spear-carriers. Where others would assume a perfunctory attitude, Laughton went full speed ahead.

Front, from left to right: Laughton, Carl Harbord, Lydia Sherwood

So far he has been in secondary roles, from early short appearances, as those in the Russian plays staged at Barnes Theatre in 1926, to character roles capable of outshadowing a lead as in "Liliom". Pahlen will be the last of a row of secondary roles with which the young actor has awed public and critics: in his next play, "Mr. Prohack" he will play a lead. He would continue to play leads from then onwards for most of his life. For someone whose looks were not those of a matinée idol it was, and remains, a feat.

In the cast of "Mr. Prohack" he met Elsa Lanchester, who played the short role as Prohack's secretary. In a way, "Paul I" is the last stage before the beginning of his "public life": in biographies, and due to the fact that the main source about Laughton's life was his widow, his life and career up to "Mr. Prohack" is not as well recorded as one would like to, in fact, Charles (whether young or old) remains elusive, and what we know about his life is ultimately as seen (juggled?) through Lanchester's looking glass.

The shape of the things to come?
The knowledgeable Laughtonian May find in the photo something familiar: Doesn't Charles' Pahlen remind you of Bligh and Javert?

The Cast:
In the photo, I can only identify Laughton and, from other pictures of the production Carl Harbord and Lydia Sherwood... Maybe anyone could help in identifying the rest of the actors in the scene? The cast was as follows:
Grand Duke Alexander: Carl Harbord
Elizabeth, his wife: Lydia Sherwood
Paul I, Emperor of Russia: George Hayes
Grand Duke Constantin: Elliott Seabrooke
Lieutenant Marin: Arthur Macrae
General Count Pahlen, Governor of Petersburg: Charles Laughton
General Talyzin: Hugh Barnes
Colonel Prince Yashvil: Bramwell Fletcher
General Bennigsen: Vivian Beymon
Coronel Argamakov: Ian Davison
Doctor Rodgerson: Dan F. Roe
Empress Marie: Dorothy Green
Princess Anna Gagarine, Lady-in-waiting to the Empress: Dorothy Cheston
Colonel Baron Rosen: Dan F. Roe
Lieutenant Bibikov: W.E.C. Jenkins
Cornet Gardanov: G. Vernon
Prince Platon Zoubov: Scott Sunderland
Prince Nicolas Zoubov: Barry K. Barnes
Guards of the emperor:
Kirilov: W.E.C. Jenkins
Ropchinsky: Arthur Macrae

Direction of the Play and settings designed by Theodore Komisarjevsky

An curious caption
This is from the text behind the still:
This shows Laughton years ago in "The Patriot" which later served as a film vehicle for Emil Jannings with whom Laughton is constantly compared

This caption is partly inaccurate. Emil Jannings played the part of the Czar, while Laughton had been Count Pahlen (the role which in the film was played by Lewis Stone). "The Patriot" (1928) was directed by Ernst_Lubitsch and the script, albeit based in Merejovski's play, had been modified by three subsequent hands: so "The Patriot" was not exactly "Paul I".

As mentioned in the caption, when Laughton reached Hollywood in 1932, he was greeted by some as "The new Jannings". Jannings, who had preceded Laughton in Hollywood as a star character actor, left America with the advent of talkies, as his strong German accent was deemed not suitable for sound pictures. Laughton, though, would soon prove to be more than a mere English-speaking substitute of the great German actor.

"The Patriot" seems to be lost except from a few extant reels. I think it's sad that a film by Lubistch -and with Jannings!- is lost while cellulloid items such as "Plan 9 from outer space" are perfectly preserved and have special DVD edition

I wouldn't have been able to tell the story behind the photograph without being properly sourced, so I must thank the Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection for kindly providing me with the required reference.