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Milestone Film & Video presents
Suds (1920)

"'Orace is comin', so I keeps it ready."
- Amanda Afflick (Mary Pickford)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: June 03, 2005

Stars: Mary Pickford, Albert Austin
Other Stars: Harold Goodwin, Rose Dione, Darwin Karr
Director: Jack Dillon

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:03m:36s
Release Date: May 24, 2005
UPC: 014381198621
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BBB+ B+

DVD Review

Mary Pickford is best known and was best beloved for her portrayals of teenage girls for Biograph and in her later features, or even of pre-teens and young boys. It comes as quite a shock to see her here, as it must have for audiences of 1920, as an older woman, hardly recognizable as the fresh-faced beauty of her other films. The advertising materials even warn, "Mary Pickford grows old for you."

Pickford stars as Amanda Afflick, a laundress in a French hand laundry in London, run by the tyrannical Madame Didier (Rose Dione). Clumsy and inept, Amanda is constantly in trouble. But she keeps going by pinning her hopes on the affections of Horace Greensmith (Albert Austin), a customer who dropped off a dress shirt for laundering eight months and 16 days earlier, but never came to pick it back up. Amanda has conjured a complete fantasy life around her "'Orace." But the real world intrudes in her fantasy life as Madame Didier determines that the business' horse, Lavender, is too old and needs to be taken to the glue factory. Amanda sets about rescuing Lavender and somehow procuring her Prince Charming.

Although based on the stage play, 'Op o' Me Thumb, by Frederick Fenn and Richard Pryce, the film is nicely opened up and hardly feels like stage-bound at all. There is good use of London city street scenes, as well as flashbacks and the elaborate fantasy sequences, which would have been difficult to accomplish on stage. That's not to mention the problems involved in having a live horse as part of the action. As a result, this picture feels very cinematic and isn't chained down by its roots in the least.

Pickford does a creditable job with the character of Amanda; she's hardly recognizable in much of the picture, but it largely seems to be done with her facial expressions rather than heavy makeup. It's never quite clear whether Amanda is supposed to actually be old or just grown old prematurely by dint of her hard labors, but I suspect the latter since she can't hide her fair and unwrinkled skin. Regardless of her chronological age, Pickford gives Amanda a young girl's heart and romanticism, and provides a wonderful contrast to the bleakness of her reality.

Where the film doesn't quite work is in Pickford's adoption of Chaplin's style of comedy; she frequently moves in an imitation of Chaplin and attempts to milk the pathos alongside the comedy. It doesn't quite work, however, since the comedy is so broad, with pratfalls and slapstick action, and doesn't mesh well with the utterly heartbreaking romantic story and the dissolution of her fantasy life. While some can mix tragedy and comedy without much trouble, Suds is at best a failed experiment. But it's certainly an interesting experiment that any Pickford fan will want to check out.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The main feature is the US version of the film, which apparently survives only in 16mm held by the Library of Congress. The picture is accordingly rather soft but the source print is in reasonably good shape, with the expected speckles, splices and scratches. The decorative titles with the imitation Cockney have been retained. The foreign export version is 35mm, and has some better clarity and sharpness, but is much more jittery and unstable than the US version.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra supplies a classy score for the US version, and it sounds quite nice. It's very bright and clear and doesn't have significant noise or hiss. The foreign version sports a 1972 organ score by the legendary Gaylord Carter. It's unfortunately full of crackle and hiss, but as a document of historical importance it's vital.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
1 Alternate Endings
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Foreign export version
  2. Still, poster and lobby card gallery
Extras Review: During the silent era, frequently a separate version of feature films would be assembled out of different takes for foreign export . The result would often be quite different, and as a bonus the export version of Suds is included here, along with a short side-by-side comparison that makes it clear that while it's still the same story, the two pictures are subtly different all the way through. Unfortunately, the jittery quality of this version makes it difficult to watch for a close comparison. As noted above, it also features a score by organist Gaylord Carter, who was one of the last practitioners of the silent movie organ who had actually performed back in the silent era. There's also a separate alternate ending to the film which tones down some of the bleakness of the original version.

An interesting little documentary on the film careers of Pickford and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, issued in 1968, is included here. Assembled by Pickford, apparently as a way of perking interest in the past, it includes quite a few film clips and also segments of their home movies that are fairly interesting. One doesn't expect an in-depth look in such a piece, but it makes for a decent enough overview. Paul Frees narrates the film, which contains a most peculiar rock-and-roll/bongo drum introduction that was apparently Pickford's woeful stab at relevance in the 1960s. Finally, a still gallery features 15 photos, several posters, a set of lobby cards and promotional materials for the film.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Pickford goes for the other end of the age spectrum, with mixed results. Two different versions of the film, plus a Pickford-produced documentary make this an intriguing disc.

 


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