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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Hawthorne of
the U.S.A.

(1919)
 

This comedy feature stars Wallace Reid as Hamilton, a no-nonsense American who breaks the bank at Monte Carlo and then proceeds to tour Europe with friend Harrison Ford. They are pursued by Colonel Radulski (Charles Ogle), who wants to steal the money to finanace a revolution in his tiny country of Bovinia. Lila Lee is the beautiful but poor Princess Irma, earmarked as Prince Valdimir’s (Edwin Stevens) bride but in love with Hamilton. It is up to Hamilton and company to circumvent the revolution and expose the traitors.

James Cruze’s pedestrian direction makes the most of a silly play adaptation. Wallace Reid is as charming as ever, and Harrison Ford turns an unusually spirited comic performance. Tully Marshall is funny as a Rasputin-looking, knife-wielding revolutionary. Theodore Roberts does his Senator Claghorn imitation. Prehistoric Robert Brower is King Augustus III, and nondescript Guy Oliver is the double-crossing minister of war Count Henloe.

The film’s denouement reflects American post-war optimism, with Hawthorne economically and culturally transforming the little European country. An ending of the unreal reality of Hollywood, but Hawthorne was an American after all and, remember, he had the password. — Carl Bennett

2003 Grapevine Video DVD edition

Hawthorne of the U.S.A. (1919), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 52 minutes, not rated,
with An Auto Nut (1919), black & white, 11 minutes, not rated.

Grapevine Video, no catalog number, UPC 8-42614-10037-6.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 6 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $14.95.
DVD release date: 2003.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 6 / audio: 5 / additional content: 6 / overall: 6.

This edition has been mastered from a very-good 35mm tinted and toned print. The video transfer is cropped a bit tight, with the lost edges of intertitle cards a clear giveaway, and is turned about two degrees counter-clockwise. A number of analog videotape playback glitches are permanently part of the disc mastering. Also, some glowing ghosting of highlights moving through a dark picture (see behind the hand of the middle actor and behind Harrison Ford’s head in the frame enlargement at right) is present in the older analog transfer. Highlights take a moment to clear from darker frames on abrupt cuts (such as one to an intertitle card). This is kind of old video transfer that used to drive us nuts watching them on budget VHS videotapes of silent film editions (remember Video Yesteryear and Videobrary tapes?).

The film is accompanied by a compiled music score of preexisting orchestral recordings. There is a persistent sound of a film projector in the soundtrack.

Not a bad-looking presentation, we recommend this disc (with the caveats noted above) until a higher quality edition of Hawthorne of the U.S.A. is released.

 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition is available directly from GRAPEVINE VIDEO.
Other WALLACE REID films available on home video.
 
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