Sequelitis. Tyrannical band manager Vladimir returns from the wilderness claiming to be Moses, leads the group to Coney Island then to Siberia, stealing the nose of the Statue of Liberty along the way. Andre Wilms, star of Le Havre, plays an American agent on their tail trying to return the nose. Cowritten by two band members and featuring much of the gang from the first movie plus a Jarmusch cameo. Vladimir died of a heart attack the next year, so no more sequels, but there’s a concert film called Total Balalaika Show, which Hulu wouldn’t let me watch.

The story is a heavy-handed melodrama, but the filmmaking is light and fun with a surprisingly mobile camera. It goes down a slide at the fair! Shot by Henry Sharp (Ministry of Fear). Wow, this had a sequel in the sound era called My Daily Bread (the only other Vidor movie I’ve seen, though I don’t remember it).

Johnny is born on the 4th of July, 1900, is given every opportunity by his parents, has a big future ahead of him – but his dad dies when he’s twelve. Camera at the top of the stairs with the doctor, fifty neighbors gathered below, Johnny steps out from the crowd and walks upstairs towards the camera, almost in 3D.

John moves to New York City, gets a job as one of Jack Lemmon’s office-mates in The Apartment, a menial accountant but still studying at night because he’s gonna be someone big.

He meets a girl named Mary at Coney Island – they get hitched immediately

The couple heads out towards Niagara Falls aboard a train. You don’t see many 1920’s movies that address the pre-wedding-night virginal jitters. Apparently I’m the only one who noticed, since all the IMDB trivia items focus instead on a toilet visible in the couple’s apartment.

Honeymoon’s over – John and Mary bicker about every little thing. Her condescending family comes to visit on Christmas eve, so John ducks out and goes dancing at his coworker Bert’s place. During one blow-up fight Mary reveals that she’s pregnant, and her husband gets all emotional and promises to be a better man.

Crabby in-laws:

John gets a slight raise, while Bert gets a major promotion. He wins $500 from a slogan contest (after this and Christmas In July, I figure slogan contests used to be a major source of income for Americans) but their second child is killed by a truck.

John having number problems:

“The crowd laughs with you always, but it will cry with you for only a day.” Depressed and anxious, John quits his job, almost kills himself while taking junior for a walk, but is re-determined to support his family, gets a menial new job. They go to the movies and the camera pulls out, losing John in the laughing crowd.

The movie stars James Murray, whose career took off with this picture until he turned drunk/homeless/suicide after a few years, and Eleanor Boardman, Vidor’s wife and star of Souls for Sale and Borzage’s The Circle. John’s friend/boss Bert is Bert Roach, an original Keystone Cop. This was the movie beaten by Sunrise for the first “artistic” best picture oscar, Vidor beaten by Borzage (for Seventh Heaven) for the first best director.

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.