Silent : Finally seen Shooting Stars (1928)

Finally seen Shooting Stars (1928)

Brought the film on Blu-ray, it arrived last week and I absolutely loved it. One of the best films about making films I've ever seen and the film looks nice and clear, the music fits the film perfectly and is very catchy.

There is a real sense of realism about it, it's fascinating watching how a silent film studio operated and what went on off camera. It must have been interesting and maybe even difficult viewing for Silent era audiences watching this, as they were shown how the magic of film is achieved and that co-stars may hate one another, yet seem the best of friends on screen. This film reveals to us that film is all about illusion and yet despite knowing it's all illusion audiences believe and enjoy what they see anyway.

The film starts off being very funny and then turns very dark and suspenseful. The ending is realistic and depressing, it shows that fame is fleeting and that once great stars can become yesterdays news.

Mae Feather(Annette Benson)and Julian Gordon(Brian Aherne)are married and are two of the most famous British stars. Mae is a beautiful and self centred woman. Julian loves her despite her flaws. Mae begins an affair with comedy actor Andy Wilkes(Donald Calthrop). When Julian discovers the affair Mae becomes so enraged that she decides to kill Julian, her plan has unexpected and disastrous results.

I also found myself longing to see the three films we see being made within the film.

I highly recommend this one. If anyone else has seen this please share your thoughts.

Go to bed Frank or this is going to get ugly .

Re: Finally seen Shooting Stars (1928)

I had more mixed feelings:

Despite its outrageous plot – a silent star plans to kill her husband and co-star during the shooting of a Western so that she can be with the knockabout comedian she loves without damaging her career - Shooting Stars isn’t really a comedy. Parts of it are funny, and Anthony Asquith’s script certainly takes plenty of satirical swipes at the industry he was trying to break into, but it’s really more of a drama that turns into a tragedy in very different ways than you might expect.

Mae Feather (Annette Benson), the ‘Sunshine Girl,’ is the archetypal silent leading lady, beloved by all she meets, a lover of Shakespeare and all creatures furry and winged – well, except for the crew of her films who despise her and the dove she shares a scene with who shows itself an excellent judge of character by pecking at her. In fact the only two people who love her are husband Julian Gordon (Brian Aherne) and, unbeknownst to him, Ben Turpin-like (minus the wild eyes) comedian Andy Wilkes (Donald Calthrop), and in Julian’s case it’s not the real Mae he’s in love with but the sweet and loving version she plays in all her films: indeed, while she’s with her lover, he’s in the cinema across the road watching her onscreen and utterly enraptured. Yet at the same time he knows that his real life doesn’t quite match up, sighing, “I wish life was more like the movies.” Ironically it’s part of maintaining the illusion of that movie image that puts him in harm’s way: because the ‘morals clause’ in both her and Calthrop’s contracts could end their careers and hopes of a move to Hollywood if either were involved in divorce or scandal, murder is the only way they can be together – though it’s only Benson who wants it enough to go that far, and even her resolve is shaky. Not that Wilkes is in any way admirable: he takes real delight in incorporating the key to his lover’s flat into one of his films (complete with future star Chili Bouchier as the married bathing beauty his onscreen lecher has his eye on).

The behind the scenes look at a working silent studio is a big selling point of the film, from the split level studio (Westerns downstairs, comedy upstairs) revealed in a lengthy overhead crane shot and the phoney press interviews to the backstage bitching and some convincing scenes of Wilkes workshopping his routines in a way that had largely gone out of fashion by the time the film was released in 1928 (the main body of the film turns out to be set several years before). It’s certainly more convincingly naturalistic than more traditional movies about movies like Show People: while a few try to live their dreams, for most it’s just a job, and not a very interesting one at that.

There is one major credibility problem with a key revelation depending entirely on Benson completely forgetting that Aherne is in the same flat at the wrong moment and for all the claims that Asquith’s scenario was so flawlessly worked out that the credited director was a mere technician carrying out his wishes to the letter there are sections that feel technically accomplished but don’t quite work as well as they could due to some sedate pacing. And, like many behind the screens stories, Wilkes is never as funny as everyone seems to find him: Calthrop is good as the actor but he’s not a natural comedian, and it shows. Aherne, however, is a surprisingly convincing silent cowboy, with a wistful sadness to his young good looks while Benson manages to avoid entirely demonising her shallow character and there’s some real power to her final scenes, by which time we’ve had an impromptu funeral parade and one major character has suffered an even worse fate than death: old movie stars never die, they just become obscure trivia questions, and it’s the film’s extended epilogue set several years later that is actually the film’s most powerful and memorable section. You know exactly where it’s going and how, but the inevitability of it only makes it more poignant.

There’s also another comment on the nature of celebrity and lasting reputation in the way the film is now constantly described as Anthony Asquith’s debut not merely as a writer but as a director: yet he didn’t direct the film, veteran actor-director A.V. Bramble did. But Bramble wasn’t a celebrity and didn’t go on to greater things so everything that is good about the film is ascribed to Asquith while Bramble is curtly dismissed as a mere supervisor working from a detailed script that must have precluded any possibility of his own individuality or imagination finding its way into the film. And yet, while it does feature many of his trademark shots, at times the style and look is markedly different from Asquith’s silents: the ideas may have been Asquith’s but it seems obvious that the same wasn’t always true of the execution. Nor was Asquith the only writer – he shares a credit with John Orton (as J.O.C. Orton), who, like Bramble, failed to go on to better things and so is casually disregarded as barely worth discussing. It’s all too easy to think of Bramble and Orton also being lost in the shadows of the film’s final shot and hard not to wonder who would have got the credit if Asquith’s career had fizzled out in later years and the auteur theory were not so ruthlessly backdated.

For all that, it’s a fascinating film that gains in real emotional power as it progresses – just don’t expect a comedy.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Finally seen Shooting Stars (1928)

Hi Trevor,

What a brilliant review! I couldn't agree more that this is so much more than a comedy.

What I loved about this film is it's drastic shift in tone. What starts off as a comic look at what goes on behind the camera, soon turns suspenseful and very sad. The change really creeps up on you and takes you by surprise.

I really love how it shatters the audiences illusions about film, they buy into the fantasy presented on screen. This must have been quite an interesting viewing experience for audiences at the time, seeing the trickery that goes on to create the images they enjoy in the cinema.

I'm curious if this is the first film to show what goes on behind the camera?

Go to bed Frank or this is going to get ugly .

Re: Finally seen Shooting Stars (1928)


I don't know about British films, but moviemaking had been a subject of comedies for years: Show People came out the same year (as did the more tragic The Last Command), there'd been a silent version of the thrice-filmed Merton of the Movies in 1924 and Chaplin had caused chaos on a movie set (complete with a mincing Eric Campbell) in Behind the Screen as far back as 1916.

There was quite a run of them in 1923 - Hollywood, Souls for Sale and Mabel Normand's The Extra Girl - and quite a few in the teens like A Girl's Folly or Thomas Graals Bästa Film (1917). And it was a common subject for short film comedies as well.

"Security - release the badgers."