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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Friday, January 27, 2012
7:00 p.m. Paid to Love
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1927)

Live Music / Judith Rosenberg on Piano

Set in a mythical kingdom of the sort you’d see in a Lubitsch film and adorned with visual flourishes à la Murnau, this silent romantic comedy of mistaken identity doesn’t exactly fit the Hawksian mold—indeed, the director later disowned it—but it entertains on its own terms. An American banker has promised to bail out the tiny nation of San Savona, but first the crown prince (George O’Brien) must be made marriageable, overcoming his total indifference to women; an Apache dancer (Virginia Valli) from Montmartre’s lowest dive is hired to arouse his interest. As the prince’s caddish cousin, William Powell temporarily impedes Valli’s progress—and, peeling a banana in her boudoir, shamelessly usurps the movie.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by William M. Conselman, Seton I. Miller, Benjamin Glazer, from a story by Harry Carr. Photographed by William O’Connell. With George O’Brien, Virginia Valli, J. Farrell McDonald, William Powell. (74 mins, 24 fps, Silent, B&W, 35mm, Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, permission 20th Century Fox)