Scen.: George Pearson. F.: Percy Strong, A. H. Blake. Int.: Betty Balfour (Tip Toes), Harry Jonas (il ragazzo), Frank Stanmore (il gonfiatore di palloncini); Annie Esmond (sua moglie), Nancy Price (l’amica di sua moglie), Eric Smith (Charlie), Sydney Fairbrother (Lily), A. Harding Steerman (il musicista). Prod.: George Pearson per Welsh, Pearson and Company. DCP.
Betty ‘Queen of Happiness’ Balfour stars as Tip Toes, an impoverished chorus girl who dreams of fame on the music-hall stage. She falls for a young aspiring writer, from the same tatty London tenement, and they resolve to meet two years later, back in the garret room to see if either has achieved their ambitions. Their outlook on life is very different – she wants to carry the world along with her irrepressible spirit – he is a melancholic who sees only the troubles of the world. The film has been actively sought by the BFI – National Archive’s curators since the Missing Believed Lost campaign in 1992 and later the BFI’s Most Wanted list. The principal reason was that it is an example of the work of Betty Balfour, Britain’s most popular actress of the 1920s – she also worked in Europe for Marcel L’Herbier and Louis Mercanton. George Pearson, who wrote and directed Balfour in four films in which she starred as a cockney flower girl, Squibs, remembered Love, Life and Laughter with particular fondness. He was ambitious in terms of narrative, with a story-within-a-story structure, starting at the end – or at least one possible end. Despite its title, no doubt intended to appeal to the fans of Squibs, it is not all fluff. In Holland the film was received with heartfelt enthusiasm. On 13 October 1923 “De Telegraaf ” wrote: “Our gloomy and worrisome time needs Betty Balfour, for she brings distraction with her healthy humour and silvery laughter… She leads one into a mood of safe pleasantness, without morbid exaggeration or dangerous thrill… The story brings us the contradiction of dispirited ‘Weltschmertz’ and weariness and zest for life, and ends in a big surprise. The direction is of the best British kind, executed down to the smallest detail, and shows great sophistication without ostentatious extravagance. If only there would be more like this”. The BFI’s campaigns to find specific films finally bore fruit, and in 2014 came the happy news that a Dutch-titled nitrate print of Love, Life and Laughter, albeit missing footage from almost every shot, had been spotted at the EYE Filmmuseum in an acquisition from a small-town cinema. So we are doubly grateful to our Dutch friends – to the audiences who loved Squibs so much and the cinema owner who squirreled away the print – and to our colleagues at EYE who found it and who have allowed us to restore it.