Original version with subtitles
Secrets by Frank Borzage, seen first in 1992 in Pordenone, brought two memorable insights: (a) In Silent Cinema, there are fantastic things to be found. Take the first part of this film, where the action consists simply of a ball dress being put on and taken off several times, in different ways. The dressing and undressing goes on, effortlessly, for twenty or thirty minutes, until the sad, chronically underfed spectator is transfigured into a joyous, confident being who cries: “I knew it! I always knew it was possible!” (b) A good film director can be recognized by the way he or she handles superstars. Borzage’s two films with Norma Talmadge (the other was The Lady, in 1925) helped the actress achieve her best performances. Versatility being her trademark, he created a film that spans forty years and goes back, through flashbacks, from the present of 1924 to 1865, 1870 and 1888, so that she can show her ability to play an old woman as well as a young girl or a middle-aged lady. Moreover, the three episodes of Secrets correspond to three different genres: comedy, the western and domestic drama. It is, in fact, an anthology film.
The project of restoring Secrets was launched by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Cohen Film Collection in 2015, and, after analysis of the existing elements, three were used for the restoration: the very incomplete negative A from the Mary Pickford Collection in the Library of Congress (reels 1-2-7), the almost complete negative B (decomposed in some parts and with reel 5 in bits and pieces) from the Cohen Film Collection, and a complete, tinted first-generation nitrate print with Czech intertitles (struck from negative B, used for export prints) from MoMA, where it had arrived in the late 1970’s from Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague. Comparison revealed that the editing and the shots are the same in both negatives, the difference lies in the quality of the acting. Negative A contains invariably the better take.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dall’omonima pièce di Rudolf Besier e May Edginton. Scen.: Frances Marion. F.: Tony Gaudio. Int.: Norma Talmadge (Mary Carlton), Eugene O’Brien (John Carlton), Patterson Dial (Susan), Emily Fitzroy (Mrs. Marlowe), Claire McDowell (Elizabeth Channing), George Nichols (William Marlowe), Harvey Clark (Bob). Prod.: Norma Talmadge per Joseph M. Schenck Productions. DCP. D.: 90’. Bn.
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