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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Red Kimona (1925)

After her lover (Carl Miller) abandons her in New Orleans, a young woman (Priscilla Bonner) tracks him down to Los Angeles and shoots him dead. She was a gullible farm girl when he lured her into a life of degradation and forced prostitution. But this is just the beginning of her story and the exploitation isn't over yet. Today, we're used to seeing "Based on a true story" as the movie begins. It was more rare in 1925 and the film opens with the producer Dorothy Davenport telling us what we are about to see is based on an actual documented story. Indeed, the film was done without the woman's permission and since they used her real name, she sued Davenport in court and won damages! The film is notable as being both an early example of the social message film and being female centric as the film was produced by a woman (though amusingly instead of being billed as Dorothy Davenport, she is billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid) and written by a woman, Dorothy Arzner (who would later become a director of note). The film is actually directed by Walter Lang, who would be a house director at 20th Century Fox (STATE FAIR, THE KING AND I). As for the film itself, as cinema it's fluid and the location shooting in Los Angeles (rather than a studio) gives it some grit. But it's still rather heavy handed as we're being lectured that he who is without sin cast the first stone.

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