Lois Weber

Scen.: Lois Weber. F.: Ben Kline. Int.: Billie Dove (‘Egypt’ Hagen), Huntley Gordon (Ray Sturgis), Raymond Bloomer (Reverend Lodge), Peggy Montgomery (Margaret Todd), Will Gregory (Colonel Todd), Helen Gilmore (Mrs Todd), Edith Yorke (Mrs Hagen), Phillips Smalley (Mr Hagen), Cora Williams (Mrs W. Symme), Sidney Arundel (Deacon W. Symme), Clarence Thompson (Rabbitt Smythe), Nora Cecil (Mrs Lodge), Frances Dale (Tottie), Lillian Lawrence, Fanchon Frankel (Tibbett sisters), Hazel Howell (Guest). Prod.: Universal. Pri. pro.: 20 marzo 1927 35mm. 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

One of three films Weber made in the late 1920s that sparked a brief resurgence of her career, Sensation Seekers is a mas­terful example of her mature work. Here she returns to her interest in gossip and scandal, updating the context to the Jazz Age. Billie Dove stars as Egypt Hagen, a society ‘flapper’ who renounces her hedo­nistic lifestyle for a more ethical path. It was the second role Weber had written for Dove, catapulting the actress to stardom after several years of playing leading roles with little impact. Critics noted that We­ber’s direction had brought out “the full talent of an actress who heretofore has been more or less purely decorative”, not­ing that Dove’s performances demonstrat­ed that she had become “virtually over­night an actress of the first rank”. Late in life Dove remembered Weber as “the best director I ever had… If I’d had any­thing to say about it, I would have had her direct all my pictures. I had a lot of men directors that I liked too, but she under­stood women”. It is ironic that Sensation Seekers propelled Dove to fame – before filming was even complete she had signed a five-year deal with First National – for the film stands alongside 1926’s The Marriage Clause and Weber’s subsequent release, The Angel of Broadway, to mark a trio of films offering remarkably reflexive meditations on the performance of femi­ninity in Hollywood’s glamour culture. If The Marriage Clause and The Angel of Broadway both explore female stardom in the theater – a clear stand-in for the mov­ie industry – Sensation Seekers comes at the question of performance and celebrity from a more oblique angle. A well-known socialite, Egypt lives her life on a kind of media ‘stage’, where her every move is watched and reported upon. The ‘sensa­tion seekers’ evoked in the film’s title are just as much Egypt’s neighbors and fel­low church-goers (eager for a scandal be­tween their pastor and a handsome young woman) as they are Egypt’s own ‘ultra-jazzy wealthy set’. Intercutting equates the group’s racy social gatherings with the ruthless behavior of Egypt’s neigh­bors, gathered to watch the ‘sinful’ goings on, gossiping mercilessly in church, and crowding around to read newspaper cover­age of Egypt’s arrest. There is little differ­ence, the film asserts, between those who seek sensation through alcohol or sex and those who seek it through scandal and gossip mongering.

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