Walshs only Western between The Big Trail (1930) and Dark Command (1940) is a significant rediscovery, an affectionate parody of the silent Westerns Walsh himself made as a young director at Mutual (all of which have been lost) that
evolves into a lyrical romance filmed with tenderness and sincerity. Based on an often filmed 1907 stage play, Salomy Jane (a fine 1914 version, directed by
Lucius Henderson and William Nigh, was included in the most recent DVD collection from the National Film Preservation Foundation, The West: 18981938), the film begins with the characters introducing themselves to the audience as if they were stock figures in a commedia dellarte playJoan Bennett as the tomboy heroine, Salomy Jane; Charles Farrell as the handsome, silent stranger in town; Ralph Bellamy as the morally ambiguous gambler. Filming among the giant redwoods and vertiginous perspectives of the Sequoia National Park in central California, Walsh constructs a West very unlike the familiar desert landscapesa lush, fertile country, as seemingly crowded with people as the New York City of Me and My Gal. As in The Yellow Ticket, Walsh continues to experiment with the expressive possibilities of compositions in depthrather than cutting away to a reaction shot to underline an emotion, he will instead shift focus to an actor in the foregroundcreating some saloon sequences that seem almost three-dimensional in their careful arrangement of action in space, and some views of the mountain valley as dazzling in their vertical composition as were the horizontal images of the widescreen The Big Trail. Walsh would return to similar territory for his 1941 High Sierra.
Dave Kehr, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
Written by Doris Anderson, based on the short story "Salomy Jane's Kiss" by Bret Harte. Photographed by Norbert Brodine. With Joan Bennett, Charles Farrell, Ralph Bellamy, Eugene Pallette. (74 mins, B&W, 35mm, Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation, permission Criterion/20th Century Fox)
Total running time: c. 165 mins
$5.50 BAM/PFA Member; Cal Student, $6.50 Cal Faculty and Staff; Disabled Patron; Non Cal Student; Senior Patron ( 65 & Older); General Admission Youth (17 & under), $9.50 General Admission