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Silent Era Home Page  >  Home Video  >  Sally of the Sawdust
 
Silent Era Films on Home Video
Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Sally of the
Sawdust

(1925)
 

The great W.C. Fields costars with D.W. Griffith’s latter-day discovery, Carol Dempster, in this story of an orphaned child raised by sideshow entertainer and gambler, J. Eustace McGargle. There is nothing great about this formula story, familiar to Griffith fans. Once the story has been established the audience knows where it is headed and how it will get there. But the performances of the two stars raises the entertainment level of the film tremendously. Carol Dempster’s fascinating jerky movements and often-touted charm reminds us of the late comedian Gilda Radner. W.C. Fields makes his first appearance in a role he would return to on radio and in motion pictures, appearing in the film remake Poppy (1936). On viewing this film, modern audiences can almost hear Fields delivering dialogue in his well-known voice since McGargle is a better representation of his later characterizations than Fields’ other silent films.

Of D.W. Griffith’s contribution to the film, we can say that he brought a sense of the melodramatic to a film that could have been a straight comedy. Certainly, critical interpretations of this film could find both fault and praise with Griffith’s aging filmmaking style. The climactic sequence of Sally’s railroading courtroom trial is intercut with shots of McGargle racing to the courthouse in an old Ford to save the day. The sequence, which is patented Griffith melodrama intended to manipulate the audience by heightening tension, continues on for too long. Ultimately, so what? We know Griffith was trying to hold on to a modicum of professional respect in an industry that had developmentally charged on past one of its most important innovators. And, with Sally of the Sawdust, he turned in a fairly entertaining programmer.

All aspects of the film progress well and are without major fault except for the continuity editing. At times the viewer is conscious of shots that don’t match well and are not edited together tightly. An actor’s movement at the end of one shot is often repeated in its entirety at the beginning of the next shot. Lighting and actor placement sometimes changes from shot to shot. These are, perhaps, signs of a film shot on a tight production schedule, but also are signs of careless filmmaking in a film from the mid-1920s. — Carl Bennett

2008 Kino International DVD edition

Sally of the Sawdust (1925), black & white, 113 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K644, UPC 7-38329-06442-6.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided,dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, 6 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 24 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.95.
DVD release date: 18 November 2008.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 7 / additional content: 4 / overall: 8.

This presentation of D.W. Griffith’s Sally of the Sawdust (1925) has been mastered in high-definition from 35mm print materials. A small amount of dust and speckling has been allowed to remain in the full-frame, natural-speed video transfer that renders a very-detailed picture, especially on upscaling high-definition monitors.

The presentation features musical accompaniment composed and performed on digital piano by Donald Sosin.

The supplemental section contains the original promotional trailer for the film (1 minute), a filmed introduction by Orson Welles from The Silent Years television series (5 minutes), and an image gallery (14 images).

With its updated HD video transfer and quality music, this edition is a worthy successor to the high-quality edition from Film Preservation Associates noted below. We only miss the sepia-toning of that edition. We highly recommend this DVD.

 
USA: Click the logomark at right to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
1999 Image Entertainment DVD edition

Sally of the Sawdust (1925), sepia-toned black & white, 113 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID4739DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-47392-6.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 25 chapter stops, snapper DVD case, $24.99.
DVD release date: 19 January 1999.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 7 / additional content: 0 / overall: 7.

There are a few silent era films that are fine examples of what home video producers should strive for in content, quality and overall presentation. David Shepard, the home video producer of this early DVD edition of D.W. Griffith’s Sally of the Sawdust (1925), is given many congratulations from this reviewer for this wonderful release. Everything is right with this version of Griffith’s melodramatic comedy.

The 35mm print utilized for the video transfer looks like a nitrate original. Picture details are clearly defined; tonal ranges are broad and never contrasty. Apart from a few aging flaws that are rarely distracting, the print is pristine. The video transfer has a little too much edge sharpening that can be detected on a high-definition monitor.

The film is accompanied by a stereo piano score performed by Philip Carli, from the 1925 music cue sheets. The piano score is well-performed and always appropriate to the film, and is far more pleasing than the MIDI synthesizer performances found on other silent film DVDs.

While Sally of the Sawdust is not one of the silent era’s masterpieces, it is nonetheless a pleasing film. This home video presentation is wonderful on all counts and would be a fine addition to any silent film collection.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2005 Passport Video DVD edition

W.C. Fields Extravaganza (1915-2005), black & white, 240 minutes total, not rated,
including Sally of the Sawdust (1925), black & white, ? minutes, not rated.

Passport Video, DVD-3330, UPC 0-25493-33309-1.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, three single-sided, single-layered? DVD discs, Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, three standard DVD keepcases in cardboard slipcase, $19.99.
DVD release date: 8 March 2005.
Country of origin: USA
This budget edition of Sally of the Sawdust has likely been mastered from a 16mm reduction print, and may be of similar quality to other low-budget discs.

We recommend this Image edition noted above.

Contents: Pool Sharks (1915), Sally of the Sawdust (1925), The Golf Specialist (1930), The Dentist (1932), The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933), Cupid Gets His Man (19??), W.C. Fields Film Follies Festival (????), An Affectionate Look at W.C. Fields (2005).

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
2010 Nostalgia Family Video DVD edition

Sally of the Sawdust (1925), black & white, 110 minutes, not rated.

Nostalgia Family Video, 1279D, unknown UPC number.
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 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
DVD release date: 2010.
Country of origin: USA
This edition was likely mastered from a 16mm reduction print.

The film is likely accompanied by a soundtrack compiled from preexisting recordings.

 
NOSTALGIA FAMILY VIDEO has discontinued business and this edition is no longer available.
Other silent era D.W. GRIFFITH films available on home video.

Other silent era W.C. FIELDS films available on home video.

W.C. Fields filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
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