THE ALICE HOWELL COLLECTION – A DVD Review by John Strange

 

THE ALICE HOWELL COLLECTION – A DVD Review by John Strange

Alice Howell started her career in Vaudeville.  After a few years on the circuit, she and her husband, Richard ‘Dick’ Smith, settled in California for his health.  With the need to support the two of them, Alice began working as an extra for Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studio.

It didn’t take long for Sennett to recognize that Alice had the chops to be a comedic star.  Like many of the ladies of comedy who have followed in her footsteps, she could “take it” in the physical style of comedy where pratfalls and other sometimes horrendous looking “accidents” often befell the acting talent.

Alice went on to make a lot of shorts and features alongside greats like Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy for some of the top studios of her time such as Keystone Studio, L-Ko Komedy Company (Lehrman Knock-out Komedies) , and Universal Pictures.  Her husband, Dick Smith, appeared in many of her films and directed several as well.

Her career stretched from around 1910 until about 1927 when she retired.  During those years she made about 100 films.  This 2-disc set, The Alice Howell Collection, brings us 12 films from her career.  Some of the prints in the archives are 16mm but most are 35mm.  My favorite film was How Stars Are Made (1916).  Seeing some “how to” and behind the scenes footage from the standpoint of the filmmakers of the day as opposed to what modern filmmakers see was very enlightening.

Most of these films are in amazing shape compared to some restored/remastered films from that era.  In a couple of cases, the films on the disk are missing part of the film but the remaining piece is still worth watching.  Only one of the selected films is rough due to non-restored damage to the original film stock.

Alice’s made famous her favorite character, a slightly addled working class girl with a kewpie-doll face and a mountain of frizzy hair on top of her head.  She played versions of this character in nearly all of her films.  Much like Chaplin and Keaton’s best know characters, her working-class waif won the hearts and made her a lot of fans.  After watching these films, I see the work of Lucille Ball and her sisters in comedy in a whole new light.

Watching these disks we are presented with not only the wonderful films but before each is a brief bit of information telling us some backstory of what was going on in Alice’s career and the companies she worked with.  The history buff in me loves this part as much as the films themselves!

The new musical scores by Ben Model add to the pleasure of watching the films.  He has proven to really know his stuff, giving us just the right amount of music to set the mood without slapping us in the face as some soundtracks for remastered silent films do.

 

Directed By:

  • Various

Cast:

  • Alice Howell, Hughie Mack, Billy Armstrong, Robert McKenzie, Eva McKenzie, Raymond Griffith, Richard Smith, and more…

DVD Contents:

  • Disc One:
    • Shot In The Excitement (1914)
    • Father Was a Loafer (1915)
    • Under New Management (1915)
    • How Stars Are Made (1916)
    • Neptune’s Naughty Daughter (1917)
    • In Dutch (1918)
  • Disc Two:
    • Distilled Love (1920)
    • His Wooden Leg-acy (1920)
    • Her Lucky Day (1920)
    • Cinderella Cinders (1920)
    • A Convict’s Happy Bride (1920)
    • Under a Spell (1920)

DVD Notes:

  • All film scanning was done by the film and video lab of the Library of Congress with the exception of In Dutch, and Cinderella Cinders which whose scans were made by the archives that provided those films.
  • Digital clean-up and stabilization by:
    • Thad Komorowski, Cineaste Restoration
  • DVD cover graphic design:
    • Marlene Weisman
  • Introductory film notes and credits:
    • Steve Massa
  • Video grading:
    • Allen Perkins
      • Father Was a Loafer, Under New Management, How Stars Are Made, His Wooden Leg-acy, Her Lucky Day, A Convict’s Happy Bride
    • Ben Model
      • Shot In The Excitement, Neptune’s Naughty Daughter, Cinderella Cinders, Under a Spell
  • New Titles:
    • Allen Perkins
      • Father Was a Loafer, How Stars Are Made
    • Ben Model
      • Neptune’s Naughty Daughter, In Dutch, Under a Spell
  • Special Thanks to:
    • Mana Allen, Rich Drezen, Pierre Fracalanza, Nelson Hughes, Glenn Mitchell, Susan Selig, The British Film Institute, The Danish Film Institute, Lobster Films and the Blackhawk Films Collection – – and to the staff of the Library of Congress NAVCC Film Lab and Moving Image Section
  • The Alice Howell Collection DVD project was crowd-funded by 383 silent film fans through Kickstarter
  • Films curated by:
    • Steve Massa and Ben Model
  • Produced for video by:
    • Ben Model
  • Musical scores, menus, special contents by:
    • Ben Model

Specifications:

Runtime:

  • 217 Minutes

Studio:

  • Undercrank Productions in association with the Library of Congress

Release Date:

  • 03/05/2019

Region:

  • 0 (Worldwide)

Website:

MPAA Rating:

  • Unrated

Selig Rating:

  • Brand New

 

Selig Rating Scale:

BRAND NEW: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost

SALE ITEM: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale

SECOND HAND: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used

RENTAL: Worth taking a look at, but not owning

COASTER: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks

PULL!: Makes a great Trap Shooting target

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