Lonesome (1929, Paul Fejos)

Barbara Kent (of Leo McCarey’s Indiscreet) wakes up in her apartment, then Glenn Tryon (of Ukelele Sheiks, Flaming Flappers and The Hug Bug) wakes up in his. They run off to their boring jobs, work montage overlaid with a clock face as they count off the hours to freedom. Back home, each spontaneously decides to go to Coney Island (it’s hot and he’s off to the beach, so he puts on a suit and bowtie) where they meet and bond and have fun splashing in six inches of water, but later lose each other in the crowd.

Grudgingly back home, despondent, lonesome. He cranks a song called “Always” on his 1920’s jambox until she pounds on the wall – they find each other, next door neighbors all along.

A very simple story, but it’s only an hour-long movie. Fejos keeps the energy high enough, and offers up inventive montages and superimpositions.

Fejos also made an Evelyn Brent movie called Broadway and an early sound remake of Fantomas. Shot by Gilbert Warrenton, cinematographer of Paul Leni’s Cat and the Canary and The Man Who Laughs. I watched the silent version (there are studio-tacked-on dialogue scenes in some editions) which lacked any score at all, so I played inappropriately dramatic Shigeru Umebayashi music. I’d sure like to hear the score Alloy Orchestra has been performing.


A man with a taste for fairy tales who later became an anthropologist, Paul Fejos had an innate grasp of how to articulate the complexity of everyday social experience in a big city. His approach to this is analytical, and his attitude at once progressive and accessible, comic and critical, distanced and affectionate. … The talented Hungarian director turned his first big Hollywood feature into a kind of visual fugue in which the separate trajectories of hero and heroine over a single morning compose a poignant harmony of variations and interactions. … Ultimately dovetailing his ‘diptych’ principle into first a love story, then the revelation that Mary and Jim live next door to each other, Fejos offers an exemplary case of structure dictating style as well as content. Here (as in Jacques Tati’s 1968 Playtime), the visual patterning of isolated units that collectively comprise city life makes the viewer wiser than any of the characters, yet in no sense superior. And in the overall sweep of this very affecting love story, Fejos is able to involve the viewer closely in the growing personal rapport between Jim and Mary at the same time that he ingeniously integrates them into a more universal context.

Edit Oct. 2015: Watched again in wonderful HD with Katy.