November 27, 2008

If there is a film out there featuring a great performance by Charles Starrett — one where you go “WOW! That guy could act!” — “Silence” isn’t that film.

clivebrookThis disk of the 1931 Paramount production was very difficult to obtain.  No synopsis on IMDB either.  Until now.  Jim Warren (Clive Brook) is going to the gallows for a crime he didn’t commit.  He confesses to the prison chaplain and we see his life story in flashback.  And we find out who he is protecting.

Starrett plays a minor character in Warren’s life, and the film: Arthur Lawrence, the fiance of the woman who does not know she is Warren’s daughter (Peggy Shannon).   We learn from Warren’s shady friend that Arthur is from “one of the oldest families.”  In this role, Charles goes to a fair, chides his fiance for falling for a three-card monte variation, catches a pickpocket, wears a tux, kisses the gal, inherits a newspaper — oh, and he opens a door.  All this in two scenes and less than five minutes of screen time.

This is Charles’ sixth film.  Let’s take a moment now to track Charles first 10 roles:

In “The Quarterback” Charles plays a football player.

In “Fast and Loose” he’s a lower-class mechanic.

In “The Royal Family of Broadway” he’s a tux-wearing banker and fiance to a famous actress. 

I can’t find “Damaged Love”.

“The Viking” casts Charles as a naive but tough seal hunter.

“Silence” has him back in the tux, engaged to another rich gal.

No print of “The Age Of Love”  is available.

“Touchdown” finds him playing a naive eighteen year old college football star.

1932’s “Sky Bride” features Charles as a cocky test pilot.

In “Lady And Gent” he’s eighteen again, and once again a naive college football star.

And “Mask Of Fu Manchu” gives us Charles as an adventurer who gets stripped to the waist and whipped by Myrna Loy.

If you are able to chart a career arc out of that, you’re doing better than me.  Bonus points if you can make all this add up to a future as a masked avenger on horseback.