Cultural notes from "Boston's most notorious entertainment franchise".
Sunday, July 07, 2013
Whatever Happened to George Arliss?
Well what didn't happen to George Arliss?
I mean in 1929 at the dawn of the talking picture era, he was the very first British actor to win an Academy Award and for a historic impersonation as well, Benjamin Disraeli.
And what the hell he gave Bette Davis her first serious screen role in that oldest and most dependable of Forgotten Hollywood Chestnuts, The Man Who Played God in 1932. Word is, Arliss had to fight the studio to cast Davis, she was ever after grateful to the British Actor.
The man had his own Hollywood repertory company,specialized in historical biopics and shaped and controlled his own films years before Orson Welles...and he is largely and unforgivably forgotten today.
It might have been his age, he was past sixty when sound came it and his opportunity hit, and then again I am convinced that the DemiGods of the Early Sound Era did not always have staying power as the Golden Age Unfolded. In the 1929-1934 period the box office was dominated by names like Will Rogers, Marion Davies, Buster Keaton & Harold Lloyd were still bankable if not necessarily profitable. None of whole would still be at the top of their game by the end of the decade least of all Arliss who for a while there was playing a behind the scenes auteur's game.
Still and all that, Arliss managed to produce and star in a number of high end A-List biographical films as the aforementioned Disraeli, Alexander Hamilton, Cardinal Richelieu, the Duke of Wellington and a founder of a Certain International Banking House....the man virtually invented the modern BioPic all by himself!
So of course, this guy was just Made for a Channel Zero Screening! And what better film that "The House of Rothschild" (1934)...in which Arliss stars as Nathan Rothschild stalwart Son of Abraham, international banker and sworn foe of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington's prized paymaster.
Back during the depression one suspects the only way you could make a Banker the Hero in a movie was make him the underdog, in a word, a Jew...that and make Boris Karloff his Jew-Baiting Nemesis...I mean Rothschild is up against religious prejudice and Frankenstein's Monster in one go, talk about long odds!
But then as now, the Jewish Actors all play Gentiles and the Gentile Actors all play Jews...so you see it's a tradition going back decades.
So by all means come see the show!
"The House of Rothschild"
Starring George Arliss, Boris Karloff, Robert Young and Loretta Young
Friday July 12th @ 8pm (sharp!) The Somerville Theatre (Micro Cinema) 55 Davis Square Somerville Ma, 617 625 5700 Admission $ 5 (cheap!) And just try and find us on Facebook, we dare yuh! Channel Zero: Now in our 18th year of genteel cinematic transcendence!
Oh we are on Facebook...somewhere....