A few words about…™ Peter Pan (1924) — in Blu-ray

Shot by the great James Wong Howe, the imagery survives in a quality form, and is a welcome addition to the library of those who admire soundless cinema. 4 Stars

Peter Pan, as directed in 1924 by Herbert Brenon, had an odd bit of casting, as Peter was played by the diminutive Betty Bronson, and gave its lead her first starring role.

Come to think of it, Peter was played by two other actresses, for television broadcast, three and nine decades later.

As fate would have it, the Paramount production has survived in 35mm, and is being offered by Kino Classics as part of their ever-growing silent program.

Shot by the great James Wong Howe, the imagery survives in a quality form, and is a welcome addition to the library of those who admire soundless cinema.

The extras include an interview with Esther Ralston, who played Mrs. Darling.

I’ve oft wondered how Wendy, as played by Mary Brian, didn’t sense that something was a bit “off” with Peter. The two actresses were the same age, both born in 1906.

Nonetheless, a wonderful, un-Disney version of the J.M. Barrie play.

Tinkerbell was played by Virginia Brown Faire (Fair), a 20 year-old actress. Was that her name before she took on the role?

Image – 4

Audio – n/a

Pass / Fail – Pass

Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

19 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. A film that I haven't seen since I was a child. I loved it then, especially Betty Bronson. I can't wait to become reacquainted. Never liked the Disney version as I saw the silent film first.

  2. lark144

    Thanks for the review. A film that I haven't seen since I was a child. I loved it then, especially Betty Bronson. I can't wait to become reacquainted. Never liked the Disney version as I saw the silent film first.

    Out of curiosity, about when was that?

  3. I've seen Peter Pan on the silver screen three times, once at a child's matinee in 1991 where the kids cheered and applauded at the end. Can't wait for this. I've never seen the next Brenon/Bronson classic, A Kiss For Cinderella (1926), which was just as popular and beloved. There's a nice print I've heard in the Eastman Archive. Would LOVE to see that come to blu-ray!

  4. JoeDoakes

    Out of curiosity, about when was that?

    The mid to late 50's, I think. Maybe 1957, when I was 6 years old. I grew up in Syracuse, and for a time they used to show silent films at the RKO on South Salina Street on Saturdays mornings oriented towards children. (It may have been somewhere else, but this is what I remember.) My grandfather, who was a silent film buff, used to take me. In addition to Bronson's PETER PAN, I recall seeing THE LOST WORLD, THE BLACK PIRATE (in black & white) and some Chaplins. Anyway, I was too young to see Disney's PETER PAN when it was originally released, so by the time I got to it, which I think was '59 or '60, I had already seen the silent film as well as watched the musical with Mary Martin on television, and also possibly had read the play at the Public Library, so I was highly critical of the Disney, especially the animation, which at the time I found streamlined and one-dimensional. I was a very serious 9 year old, at least when it came to films.

  5. Ed Lachmann

    I've never seen the next Brenon/Bronson classic, A Kiss For Cinderella (1926), which was just as popular and beloved. There's a nice print I've heard in the Eastman Archive. Would LOVE to see that come to blu-ray!

    I've never seen A KISS FOR CINDERELLA either, and would snap up a Blu-ray of it. A quadruple like for that wish!

  6. lark144

    The mid to late 50's, I think. Maybe 1957, when I was 6 years old. I grew up in Syracuse, and for a time they used to show silent films at the RKO on South Salina Street on Saturdays mornings oriented towards children. (It may have been somewhere else, but this is what I remember.) My grandfather, who was a silent film buff, used to take me. In addition to Bronson's PETER PAN, I recall seeing THE LOST WORLD, THE BLACK PIRATE (in black & white) and some Chaplins. Anyway, I was too young to see Disney's PETER PAN when it was originally released, so by the time I got to it, which I think was '59 or '60, I had already seen the silent film as well as watched the musical with Mary Martin on television, and also possibly had read the play at the Public Library, so I was highly critical of the Disney, especially the animation, which at the time I found streamlined and one-dimensional. I was a very serious 9 year old, at least when it came to films.

    I always found the multi-plane in the Disney film beautifully done.

  7. Ed Lachmann

    I've seen Peter Pan on the silver screen three times, once at a child's matinee in 1991 where the kids cheered and applauded at the end. Can't wait for this. I've never seen the next Brenon/Bronson classic, A Kiss For Cinderella (1926), which was just as popular and beloved. There's a nice print I've heard in the Eastman Archive. Would LOVE to see that come to blu-ray!

    Well, I wouldn't call it a "nice print". It has lengthy sections of serious deterioration, sadly in the scenes that would be most impressive (the ball, for example). They're not just ordinary nitrate decomp, but strange in that they flip back and forth to give the impression of a negative flipping to a positive and back again, many times over. My guess is that these would make someone think twice about a commercial release, although IMO we silent film fans would still like to have it regardless.

    The film was apparently one of great beauty originally. It was tinted, toned, and hand-colored, none of which survive in the poor Xerox-copy print that exists today. Eastman House used to show their nitrate print as an annual treat, but it wasn't preserved in time. You can read the sad story of the film in W. K. Everson's AMERICAN SILENT FILM.

  8. Robert Harris

    I always found the multi-plane in the Disney film beautifully done.

    I certainly did the last time I saw it, when it came out on Blu. I found it very impressive, and much more involving and beautiful than I remembered. Some sequences are absolutely breathtaking, in terms of the depth of field. (One could write an essay comparing Disney's innovation of the multi-plane camera, especially as seen in PINOCCHIO, and Orson Welles and Greg Tolland's experiments in depth of field from the contemporaneous CITIZEN KANE.) But as a nine year old, I don''t think I knew about, or could discern, multi-plane animation. What bothered me was that the backgrounds were only sketched in, and especially the faces of people in the distance weren't fully drawn. This doesn't trouble me at all now. Either I've become less critical as I've grown older, or the film was better than I initially thought. Still, as an expression of J.M. Barrie's vision, I'll take the silent PETER PAN over the Disney.

  9. lark144

    I've never seen A KISS FOR CINDERELLA either, and would snap up a Blu-ray of it. A quadruple like for that wish!

    I'm surprised you haven't seen KISS. I saw it either at MoMA or Bill Everson's print while I lived in NY. Everson loved both Peter Pan and A Kiss for Cinderella.

  10. bujaki

    I'm surprised you haven't seen KISS. I saw it either at MoMA or Bill Everson's print while I lived in NY. Everson loved both Peter Pan and A Kiss for Cinderella.

    I regularly attended Bill Everson's screenings at the New School & the Huff Society in the early '70's, as well as took as many of his classes as I could the time I was at NYU, so it's possible that I saw the film but just don't remember (though PETER PAN left such an indelible impression I find it hard to believe that if I did see A KISS FOR CINDERELLA, its images would fade from my mind 40+ years later. Then again, there are plenty of films I'm under the impression of never having seen, and then when I see them, realize that I have.) I do remember Mr. Everson waxing ecstatic about A KISS FOR CINDERELLA in class, but at the time, he had lent the print to someone and it hadn't yet come back.

  11. lark144

    I regularly attended Bill Everson's screenings at the New School & the Huff Society in the early '70's, as well as took as many of his classes as I could the time I was at NYU, so it's possible that I saw the film but just don't remember. I do remember Mr. Everson waxing ecstatic about A KISS FOR CINDERELLA in class, but at the time, he had lent the print to someone and it hadn't yet come back.

    As I've said before, I was at the same places you were (New School, the Huff Society, Everson's NYU classes, MoMA screenings) from 1972 to 1988. I was also a regular at the Bleecker St. and Carnegie Hall Cinemas, as well as the Regency because their managers let me in for free. I even borrowed 16mm prints from the Bleecker and Carnegie Hall Cinemas as well as from Bill Everson!
    Do the names Bob Kalish, Ed McGuire, Rick Scheckman ring a bell? They were always first in line at MoMA screenings. And so were my wife and I.

  12. bujaki

    Do the names Bob Kalish, Ed McGuire, Rick Scheckman ring a bell? They were always first in line at MoMA screenings. And so were my wife and I.

    Of course. Everybody who went to MOMA knew Ed McGuire, as he always carried current schedules of every revival house in his copy of the "NYTimes." Bob Kalish I used to be fairly close to when I managed the Gotham, and I still run into him occasionally. The last time I was at MOMA he was still sitting in the front row.

  13. Robert Harris

    I always found the multi-plane in the Disney film beautifully done.

    The kids flying above the clouds, which suddenly open up beneath them to reveal a landscape far below, was an amazing, if fleeting, use of multi-plane. I can't recall (without watching it again) what other instances (if any) of this simulated deep depth appear in the film.

Leave a Reply