You Never Know Women

William A. Wellman

Sog.: Ernest Vajda. Scen.: Benjamin Glazer. F.: Victor Milner. Int.: Florence Vidor (Vera), Lowell Sherman (Eugene Foster), Clive Brook (Norodin), El Brendel (Toberchik), Roy Stewart (Dimitri), Joe Bonomo (il forzuto), Irma Kornelia (Olga), Sidney Bracey (manager). Prod.: Adolph Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky per Famous Players Lasky Corp. 35mm. D.: 71′. 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

This 1926 Wellman silent was, according to the director himself, “My last chance”, after he and B.P. Schulberg made a self proclaimed “incredibly atrocious” picture called The Cat’s Pajamas. Always one for an over elaborate false start, Wellman opens with a construction worker raising a beam just as it’s about to fall on a passing woman (Florence Vidor). The construction worker miraculously saves her but a rich gentleman (Eugene Foster) in a nearby car, upon noticing the woman’s good looks, swoops in and takes the credit. She’s part of a famed Russian vaudeville troupe, and Wellman redirects our attention to their exploits, crafting a nuanced exploration of performance, on stage and in life. This focus on theater gives Wellman one of his first chances to explore his obsession with the politics of identity and the physicality of labor. He combines the two in an impressive tracking shot of the entire cast (of both the movie and the troupe) taking off their masks on a brightly lit stage in a very dark theater, only to reveal clown make up underneath. The film marks the screen debut of vaudevillian El Brendel, who would appear the next year in Wings as Herman Schwimpf and provide a much needed (and very Wellmanesque) come dic antidote to the prestigious aviation melodrama. Here he also plays the funny man, offsetting a plot centered on a love triangle with the support of a performative duck. When the curtain came down, this last chance turned out to be Well man’s breakout success as he said: “The gods smiled: it won artistic award of the year, and the bum got a twenty five dollar a week raise and Wings for his effort”.

Gina Telaroli

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