About Hoop-la ( 1933 ) and Children of Divorce (1927)
Article by Antonia Guerrero
Last week, as part of UCLA's Film Archives salute to actress Clara Bow, a meticulously preserved Library of Congress print of Frank Lloyd's only film of 1927, Children of Divorce was screened to a very appreciative audience, almost a full house. This silent romance-society-melodrama starring the very popular Bow, a coy young-looking Gary Cooper and the beautiful Ester Ralston (Lloyd had directed her in the 1922 Oliver Twist) warns of the dangers of divorce and the consequences on the children. Family friend Hedda Hopper, years before donning her trademark hats and becoming a gossip and society columnist, plays the Mother to Bow's character. Most of the filming was done at the Paramount Studios on Melrose Avenue as well as a stately house in Pasadena.
Fully one quarter of this film had deteriorated before the Library of Congress' film restoration laboratory project began in earnest in 2000; the film is not available for home video and has not screened on television. The 70 minute film looks great, flows well inspite of reported missing pieces and, as Lloyd would say, "provides an evening of delightful entertainment."
The plot: Kitty Flanders (Bow) tricks her childhood crush Ted Larrabee (Cooper) into marrying her yet he still only has eyes for Jean (Ralston) and mopes through three years. Kitty realizes her mistake, tries to unite Ted with Jean and finally, tragically, decides that her death is the only solution.
Opening in November 1933, after two of his great films (Cavalcade, Best Director Oscar 1932-33) and Berkeley Square, Frank Lloyd was asked by Fox Studios to direct Clara Bow, Preston Foster and Richard Cromwell in the racy melodrama, Hoop-la. A pristine print of this pre-code talkie film, Bow's very last film, was screened recently by the UCLA Film Archives to a full-house; this engaging film gave an interesting glimpse into carnival life as well as train travel of the 1930s. And did you notice some scenes from the 1933 Chicago Exposition?
The plot: Bow's vivacious character (Lou), a carnival dancer, bets another dancer that she can seduce the young, clean-cut son (Chris, played by Cromwell) of the 'barker', the fellow who entices the public into carnival attractions (Nifty played by Foster). Hap (played by H. Mundin) provides cheery light moments similar to his portrayal in the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty. Lou succeeds in winning Chris, then really falls for him; they marry. And a few years later, after Chris finishes his education and becomes a lawyer, in the final scene, Lou and Nifty reconcile; he lures passer-bys into the tent to see her gyrate to The Snake Dance. In the end, he recognizes all the good that she has done for his son and admits, "She's plenty good."