Cameo Kirby

John Ford

It. tit.: Signore dei cammei; Sog.: dalla commedia di Harry Leon Wilson, Booth Tarkington; Scen.: Robert N. Lee; F.: George Schneiderman; Int.: John Gilbert (Cameo Kirby), Gertrude Olmstead (Adele Randall), Alan Hale (Colonnello Moreau), Jean Arthur (Ann Playdell), William E. Lawrence (Colonel Randall), Richard Tucker (cousin Aaron); Prod.: William Fox; Pri. pro.: 21 ottobre 1923. 16mm. L. or.: 7 bobine. L.: 601 m. D.: 60’ a 22 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The influence of D. W. Griffith on Ford is everywhere evident in Cameo Kirby, a florid melodrama starring John Gilbert set in the pre-Civil War South. This was the first film for which Ford was given an A-picture budget and the first on which he signed himself “John” rather than “Jack,” signaling a new degree of artistic ambition, a greater drive toward respectability. Adapting the play by Harry Leon Wilson and Booth Tarkington about a riverboat and saloon gambler, Ford finds in the dashing, gallant Kirby one of his “good bad men.” Kirby tries to aid the beleaguered family of the girl he loves (Gertrude Olmstead) but has to overcome his reputation as a cardsharp. Duels and other derring-do combine with romantic intrigue to make up the convoluted, melodramatic plot, filmed in a style that verges on the operatic. Although the drama is rather turgid, Ford’s masterful sense of composition and the lush locations offer many lovely images, including river scenes filmed through the branches of trees rippling in the wind. The footage of a lavishly-filmed steamboat race was cannibalized later by Ford for Steamboat Round the Bend, and chase scenes involving lines of charging horsemen not only evoke The Birth of a Nation (in which Ford himself rode as a Klansman) but also point forward to Ford’s later movies about the U.S. Cavalry. Cameo Kirby marks the film debut of Jean Arthur. Seen in a small part here, she later would star in Ford’s The Whole Town’s Talking.

“As though the men and women of that pre-Civil War period had come to life again in the full vigor and beauty of their joy of living [sic]. Ranks with the best of the year.” “Exhibitors’ Trade Review”, 1923


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