Well, what do you want from me? That, I’m sure, is a question many web journalists ask themselves when pondering their reception. What is it that leads those following the threads of the internet to the dead end that is broadcastellan? In recent days (after the aforementioned Chinese invasion), the vast majority of folks who stumbled upon this journal did so by Googling for answers regarding Marlene Dietrich’s lost jewelry. Considering that the discovery of Ms. Dietrich’s earring in an amusement park in Blackpool, England, occurred and was shared here some time ago, I am rather puzzled by this upsurge of curiosity (as captured in the screenshot below).
Perhaps, it was a quiz show question and, owing to my musings on Dietrich’s loss, someone has won a little something. While not one chiefly concerned with giving people what they want (otherwise, I’d be writing less cumbersomely on matters less obscure), I took this as an occasion to return to the site of this attention-grabbing incident by screening Hindle Wakes (1927), a silent film partially shot on location in Blackpool (as well as the Welsh seaside resort of Llandudno).
Maurice Elvey’s Hindle Wakes (1927), the first film I successfully digitized from video tape using our (previously maligned) DVD recorder), takes viewers on a ride on the Big Dipper, the rollercoaster from which Dietrich dropped her bauble some seven years later. Like Bhaji on the Beach (1993), it captures the atmosphere of the place, a Vegas for laborers in the north of England, as well as the difficulties of getting away from one’s cares and responsibilities. More than earrings are lost here; and even though visitors hope that their indiscretions remain uncovered, their everyday invariably puts an end to the carnivalesque.
Despite this potentially tawdry premise, Hindle Wakes refrains from the sensational; indeed, its most thrilling scene, the drowning of the heroine’s female companion—a male-rebuffing tomboy whose behavior and demise called to mind the character of Martha in The Children’s Hour (previously discussed here)—is only talked of, not shown. Quietly remarkable, Elvey’s adaptation of Stanley Houghton’s oft-filmed 1918 play documents an indiscretion and its consequences. Startlingly unconventional, the conclusion departs from both the virgin/whore schema of Victorian melodrama and the finance or romance driven match-makings of Victorian comedy, as the impecunious yet strong-willed heroine deals with her misstep without stooping to a makeshift union with the wealthy man who made love to her while engaged to another.
Of all the forty-odd movies I have seen so far this year (and listed, right), Hindle Wakes is at once the most obscure and surprising. Yet, if it had not been for all those stopping over in search of Dietrich’s jewelry, I might not even have watched it last night. Never mind the quiz show prizes; I walked away with something after all.