This is a big one!
On January 1, 2019, the 1923 films moved into the public domain. Among them is Marion Davies’ megahit Little Old New York.
Yes, there has been a murky print of this film floating around for years, probably sourced from an ancient VHS release. This project -- my 12th Kickstarter project -- uses a new scan of the film sourced from a 35mm print in the Marion Davies Collection held at the Library of Congress. As I write this, I do not have this new copy in hand.
Little Old New York boasts a tour de force performance by Marion Davies who was just coming into her own as an actress. After the mammoth success of When Knighthood Was in Flower in 1922, Davies again dominated the box office with Little Old New York in 1923. Both films ranked in the top 5 hits of their years, and Davies and Rudolph Valentino were named King and Queen of the Screen by theater owners at their 1924 convention.
Set in early 19th century America, Little Old New York tells the story of Patricia O’Dare, an Irish immigrant who comes to this country with her family to claim a family fortune for her brother. After the brother dies during the sea voyage, her father decides she must pose as Patrick in order to claim the fortune and prevent a cousin (Harrison Ford) from grabbing it.
Davies has a field day. With her hair cut in the “little Dutch boy” bob of the day, she poses as the slightly bratty young boy and gets into a series of scrapes and embarrassing moments. There’s also an odd “tension” between her and her cousin that he can’t quite understand.
Set against the sprawling panorama of early 19th century New York, the plot includes the famous launch of Robert Fulton’s “folly,” the steam-powered Clermont, which sets sail on the Hudson River. Producer William Randolph Hearst spared no expense in this film, and he had built an exact replica of Fulton’s boat to sail the Hudson River in January of 1923. Along with Fulton, we also see real-life people like Washington Irving, John Jacob Astor, and Cornelius Vanderbilt as characters in the film.
It’s a miracle this film exists at all. On February 19, 1923, a fire destroyed most of the Cosmopolitan Studio buildings in New York City. All the sets, props, and costumes for Little Old New York were destroyed, but the negative for the film (about 2/3 finished) was miraculously saved. Hearst re-built the entire set, all the costumes and props, and finished the film. The following clips from the existing copy gives you an idea.
The reward? Marion Davies got the best reviews of her career. Motion Picture News encapsulated the film’s highlights: “The sailing of the Clermont. Miss Davies’ jig in the prize-ring. The fight between the Hoboken Terror and Bully Boy Brewster…. The whipping scene. The courtroom scene. Miss Davies.”
The reviewer also said, “We wish we had more room to speak of Miss Davies’ performance. As the impudent, sentimental, harum-scarum colleen who masquerades as a boy, she is irresistible.” Exhibitor’s Trade Review proclaimed that “Marion Davies “established herself as a really great actress in When Knighthood Was in Flower, but in Little Old New York she reaches the zenith of her career.” Another raved “I lay great stress on the triumph of Miss Davies because it is important. It brings to the screen a new favorite” and also comments about her “straight bobbed hair” and “looking so refreshingly natural … that she wins you immediately.”
Variety raved “Marion Davies is to Little Old New York what Times Square is to all of the country – the center of attraction.” Picture-Play Magazine summed it up by saying “I don’t know whether to cheer loudest for the steam boat or for Marion Davies.”
I've lined up Ben Model again to score this great film. Ben has scored several of my projects, including Marion Davies' April Folly, The Bride's Play and Beauty's Worth, as well as his own restoration of Davies' When Knighthood Was in Flower.
In my opinion, Little Old New York is one of the great silent films. It boasts a superb performance by a great star in a rousing tale full of humor and drama and excitement.
This is a must-see film for fans of silent films and for fans of Marion Davies!
NOTE: The DVD artwork is always available on request for international backers and those who choose an upload.
STRETCH GOAL ----------------
Since we have three weeks to go, I've decided to add a Stretch Goal.
If we can reach $4,000, I'll add a 12-page booklet to the DVD. I haven't added a booklet to my previous projects, but it seems a good choice for Little Old New York.
I've also arranged with Ben Model to release this film through his Undercrank Productions later this year. This projected DVD release ensures that this film will have a life after this Kickstarter project is finished. Ben has also released Beauty's Worth and The Bride's Play thru Undercrank and this caught the attention of the Italian archivist Livio Jacob, who arranged for several festival showings of Beauty's Worth in Italy in 2018.
I think this is an exciting new life for Marion Davies' silent films and gets them seen by live audiences in a variety of venues. Ben also accompanied Beauty's Worth this past fall at the AFI Silver Theater in Maryland.
Reaching this stretch goal will help cover additional production costs in setting up a DVD release thru Undercrank.
Again, thanks for your continued support!
Risks and challenges
There really are no risks or challenges to this project. The great majority of donors (if not all) are knowledgeable about silent films and the various kinds of deterioration that can afflict them. No one will be expecting a pristine print. Composing a score can be an enormous and time-consuming task, and the overall turnaround time could be up to 30 days or more.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)