the transformation of the melodramatic hero

May 18, 2008 § 2 Comments

The Troy o’ Hearts: a motion-picture melodrama, Joseph Louis Vance, 1914

Take this description:

He was a young man and had been personable.
Just now his face was crimson with congested blood
and streaked with sweat and grime; his lips were
cracked and swollen, his eyes haggard, his hands
bleeding. (. 31)

Note to Hollywood, c. 1914: how do you fit this into an entertaining, attractive formula ? It’s going to take some penetration of realistic styles before this purple-prose battering of the hero can find its equivalent on the not-so-forgiving film image. (It’s easy to uglyfy your hero by words; but on the screen?) And indeed, notice how the face is anything but “crimson”, “haggard” and the like:

Judith feels love for the man she was meant to kill

How long before serials would show “crimson” for what it is ?

The Red Ace, which began its run in February 1917, represents a milestone of sorts: it is the first serial, as far as I know, that began showing profuse amounts of blood during fight scenes. All previous serials were bloodless (although one does not notice the absence when watching them). The blood greatly intensified the graphic violence critics of sensational melodrama found so objectionable. (Ben Singer, Melodrama and Modernity, p. 217)












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