Monday, September 17, 2012
One Romantic Night (The Swan) - 1930
“One Romantic Night” (1930), AKA “The Swan” shows a world, and a medium, in transition. The world is one in which fairly tales about princesses are out of step with the Jazz Age just passed. The decade ahead will bring plenty of fairly tales, but they will be about shop girls instead. The medium was the dawn of talking pictures, which had not yet delivered a freedom of expression they’d promised; instead the actors and crew were shackled to the demanding and unforgiving microphones.
“The Swan” was remade in 1956 with Grace Kelly in the lead, with Alec Guinness as the Prince she pursues, and Louis Jourdan as the lovelorn tutor who pursues her. We discussed “The Swan” here. Comparisons are inevitable and must make up the bulk of this post. I won’t go too deeply into the plot, as we’ve covered that in the previous post.
Most glaringly different is the absence of the sad and lovely speech the Prince makes comparing the Princess to a swan and reminding her, and us, of her responsibility to remain true to her birthright. Here, the Prince tricks the Princess into becoming his bride. She slaps on a cloche hat and they run off together in an automobile. An attempt to modernize the piece?
“At that point in technical development, talkies were nothing but a poor imitation of theater itself. Silents were an entirely different medium. It was a way of telling a story -- images created the emotion -- a direct appeal…"
Talkies required more rigid camera setups: "Everything would have to be straight cuts, no fade-ins or fade-outs, no dissolves. All the fluid movement of the camera would be lost. It would be static, dull, tied to a microphone. You couldn’t go outdoors…
“Even in more intimate scenes, you could never speak while moving around. Of course, you could hide a microphone in things. It was only slightly smaller than a breadbox, but it could be done.” (pp 73-74).