The Crowd (1928)

King Vidor’s masterpiece- I can now say that as I’ve FINALLY seen it! And it truly is a masterpiece- The Crowd was and still is one of the greatest silents. Made in 1928, it was one of the films that exhibited the pinnacle of the silent era. I’m in conflict with the coming of sound because while I love my pre-codes (though it took a few years till sound got to that) silents are something of another world. I’m afraid, unfortunately, some people find them silly which frustrates me to no end. I have a difficult time describing what silents, especially those of the 1927/1928 years, mean to me and how much they affect me. However now I know exactly what film to have them watch to change their perception of silent film.

I knew very little about The Crowd when I started watching it. I learned from The Story of Film series how Billy Wilder was inspired by the scene in the office and applied it to The Apartment, but other than that I knew nothing. To be honest I’m quite surprised about the subject of the film even though I had no idea what to expect. I’m not really sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that. Anyhow I loved the film and I’m glad it was about the struggles and the ups-and-downs of marriage.

I haven’t seen many of King Vidor’s films; I am about halfway through The Big Parade and love it so far but other than that I’m afraid I haven’t seen anything else. However now I will have to add his films to my to-watch list. I feel like each of his shots, especially the close-ups, were superb in capturing the character’s emotions and their thoughts. Sometimes I have trouble “filling in” what the characters are saying to one another but this film it was crystal clear. And I love how Vidor used unknown actors. At first I was going to put the film off and watch something else because their weren’t people that I knew, however I think that made it even better. Rather than thinking about the person’s acting and how wonderful they are, I found that those actors were the people and I could focus them as a character. I’m not sure if that even makes sense but if anything it only helped the film.

But the actors were great and I loved how that while they were attractive they weren’t any John Gilbert or Gloria Swanson. It gave the film a realistic universality.

The film itself is realistic once you think about it. And still very universal. I think of their wedding night because it’s not what people usually present it as. I would think people would be nervous, haha I know I will be! Anyways I could understand Mary and I just laughed at John because of the way he was acting, oh dear. Its universal quality is still there; you could place this story line for a film today and it would work. Sure you would need to tweak a few things but overall it would be understandable and relatable.

I’m not sure I like John though…I felt like he was almost too wimpy and sometimes a little to selfish? Mary though, I had more respect for her. She is what pulled the family through. If I recall correctly, I don’t remember the children having any names, or at the least the film telling us. It almost seems like they were just objects or a part of marriage rather them being people. Obviously they were important to them as John loses his job because his daughter’s death, but they never seem to elaborate on the children.

I suppose that makes sense; the movie is about the struggles of marriage. One of the first begins right before Mary tells John she’s pregnant. After he finds out he says he’ll change for her and take care of her. However that quickly dies as once she has the baby, we soon see them having a picnic where Mary is doing all the work and John is playing his ukulele; thus the next struggle.

It goes on and on until the end where John FINALLY realizes the current situation, or so I hope. The ending shows that Mary is going to stay with John and they all go to see a show together. The film ends with the camera slowly moving away from the couple until we cannot see them anymore and they are lost in the crowd of people. I can only hope he keeps his way. From the reading I’ve done, people say it’s not a happy ending. I  somewhat agree and somewhat don’t. It really shouldn’t be a great, everything is solved ending. The film is about ordinary people so it should have an ordinary ending, right? Which is what it is. Now that I think about it, it truly is a great ending. I’m glad Vidor won and kept it.

Oh duh! The crowd! Obviously very important throughout the film, John’s biggest antagonist. I have to say it was so heartbreaking when he was asking the city to be quiet when his daughter was on the bed dying. John hates the crowd. It’s always there criticizing him and working against him. However the one time he’s in harmony with it, or can at least join in with it, is at the end of the film when they’re at the theatre watching the clown.

I’m extremely happy I took the time to watch this film over the weekend and I can only hope Warner Bros. releases it on DVD/Blu-Ray sometime soon!

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Rating: ♚♚♚♚♚

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