Good news, because the silent film discovery of the past year or so, Bardelys the Magnificent, is released next month by Flicker Alley. The 1926 MGM film, starring John Gilbert and based on a typically swashbuckling novel by Rafael Sabatini, was directed by King Vidor – his first film after The Big Parade. Thought lost and long-lamented (a brief excerpt existed in the Marion Davies film Show People), a print of the film turned up in France in 2006. Restored by the continually splendid Lobster Films, the film started doing the rounds of archive film festivals late last year, and has proven to be a popular delight. The DVD version comes with a period score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra provides a lovely score of period photoplay music, and an alternate piano score by Antonio Coppola (one suspects that alternate scores are shaping up to be a new trend). English titles have been inserted according to the original script, and a gap in the rediscovered footage is bridged with stills, titles, and footage from the original trailer.
Accompanying the main feature is Monte Cristo (1922), based on the Alexandre Dumas novel, starring Gilbert as Edmond Dantes. As with Bardelys, this was a lavish production in its day, which now survives in almost complete form through a single “worn and choppy” print found in the Czech Republic. English titles have been added from the original script, and Neal Kurz plays the piano score based on period French music. Extras on the DVD are an audio essay on John Gilbert by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta, and a new thirty-minute documentary, Rediscovering John Gilbert, featuring an on-camera interview with his daughter and biographer, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain.
Bardelys the Magnificent and Monte Cristo: The Lost Films of John Gilbert is released as a 2-disc set on 14 July.
I caught BARDLEYS at the Kansas Silent Film Festival this year. It’s a piece of fluff, but a very entertaining piece of fluff. Gilbert is great, and Eleanor Boardman is even better. David Shepard did an outstanding job restoring the film, and the Mont Alto score is wonderful too.