For Reel


The Silver Horde (1930)
June 30, 2012, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Archainbaud

A documentary-like sequence that captures the process of bringing salmon from their habitat into consumer cans is the centerpiece of The Silver Horde, an early talkie that becomes quite the lark in its latter half. Joel McCrea, then only 25-years-old, is paired with Jean Arthur in their first of three collaborations (the last of which being a masterpiece of the 1940s, The More the Merrier), however it is his relationship with silent screen star Evelyn Brent that captivates. Brent, most known today for working with Josef von Sternberg in The Last Command and Underworld, worked with relative consistency from the silent era through the 1950s, however her career never quite flourished as much as it should have given the promise of her early work. Here, she’s not met with a good script or a patient director – many of the proceedings feel like rehearsal footage, with McCrea coming off as particularly stilted – however she has a memorable scene in which she confronts Arthur in the heated climax. When it is revealed that she is a prostitute halfway through the picture, one expects that she will eventually redeem herself but ultimately take the backseat to Arthur as McCrea’s lover. Even though women’s roles in the pre-Code era were much richer than they would be in later years, the scripts too often failed their characters in the end by regressing them back into subservient accessories (Michael Curtiz’s Female being a key example). It is a great surprise, then, that McCrea finds himself still drawn to Brent despite her past.  Just as the picture is fascinated with the workers at a salmon trapping factory, it equally holds Brent in high esteem, suggesting that prostitution is no less blue collar than what McCrea does.


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