Tuesday, April 9, 2019

REGINALD DENNY AT THE TORONTO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL


Toronto film fans extend their congratulations and their thanks to co-founders Shirley Hughes and Mark Wonnacott, and all of the dedicated volunteers at the Toronto Silent Film Festival, 2019. Happy 10th Anniversary!

Festival-goers were thrilled with the world premiere of Ensemble Polaris' score for Shiraz: A Romance of India, the popular Saturday program 1000 Laffs accompanied by Jordan Klapman, and Garbo, The Temptress accompanied by Marilyn Lerner. Bill O'Meara provided the music for the delightful Douglas Fairbanks comedy When the Clouds Roll By on Sunday afternoon, and also on Monday evening's concluding feature, the dramatic G.W. Pabst film The Love of Jean Ney.

Let me share with you part of the charm of the Sunday afternoon program at the Royal Cinema.

Janet Hall, Caftan Mom

My heart skipped a beat as my daughter Janet and I approached the historic venue at 608 College Street. Festival photographer Maureen Nolan was quick to capture our happy reaction to Reginald Denny's name on the marquee announcing the screening of Skinner's Dress Suit.

Emily Evans, Paddy Nolan-Hall

The presentation of the 1926 film directed by versatile William Seiter (Sons of the Desert, Roberta, If You Could Only Cook) included accompaniment by audience favourite Tania Gill, along with some very special guests. Emily Evans joined us from Chicago. Emily is a Denny expert and devotee, as her followers on twitter at @laura_la_plante well know. Her informative notes on the film and its star, plus her heartfelt delivery was a perfect introduction to a joyful afternoon.

Jacqueline Hadden, Paddy Nolan-Hall, Jill Pucci

The wonders of the internet had brought Emily together with Jacqueline Hadden and Jill Pucci. These two lovely ladies joined us at the Festival to share memories of their grandfather, Reginald Denny. His accomplishments as an aviator, inventor, boxer, and actor were thrilling to hear. His happy marriage and love for children and animals made his presence felt. At one point, Jill remarked that she felt as comfortable as if she were sharing stories with friends in her living room. Truly, that perfectly described the afternoon as Reginald Denny came alive for the audience.

A charming introduction to Reginald Denny's legacy was presented as well. You are sure to be impressed with this video produced by another Denny granddaughter, Kim Pucci. 


Henry Irving Dodge had a way with a yarn, just like his great-uncle Washington Irving. His most popular stories concerned one William Manning Skinner, and that is the character Reginald Denny played in Skinner's Dress Suit in 1926.

This Skinner, as the intertitle tells us is "just another commuter", but in the eyes of his adoring wife Honey played by Laura LaPlante, Skinner is a Captain of Industry, a Man Among Men, and all he needs to do is demand a raise in salary and it shall be his. 

Following Skinner to his office, we see that bright lad though he may be, he's not exactly on the top of the pecking order. In fact, the office boy Tommy played by Arthur Lake even puts the odd joke over on our Skinner. Perhaps young Lake was taking hints from this gig that would find their way into his future portrayal of Dagwood in the Blondie series.

Skinner realizes a raise is out of the question, but to Honey, there is no question about it. Skinner goes along to get along and tells Honey a most innocent little white lie about the raise and its amount. There's nothing much wrong with building castles in the sky, but it is best not to spend real money on such flimsy real estate. Honey starts spending real money. Skinner must have a dress suit. A man as important as her husband is too good to be seen in his one shabby old suit. Besides, the society-setting Colbys are having a party and the Skinners must look their best to attend.

Reginald Denny, Laura LaPlante

The Skinners are the hit of the party, teaching all the stuffed shirts the latest dance craze. Honey is invited to join an exclusive bridge club. Mr. Colby offers to drive Skinner to the train station in the mornings. No more running and missing the 7:32! Things are looking up, with the exception of their bank account. Honey keeps spending and the prosperity of their furnishings and wardrobe have nothing to do with reality.

Everything happens at once! Skinner loses his job and keeps it from Honey while creditors want to repossess everything from the radio to his dress suit. The dress suit is necessary for one last party at The Ritz. It is at this soiree that Skinner runs into a manufacturer with a social-climbing wife and the opportunity for things to go either horribly wrong or amazingly right. I'll let you enjoy the shenanigans with no further spoilers.

Laura LaPlante and Reginald Denny are captivating as the Skinners. They are attractive and talented actors who throw themselves into comic situations with appropriate abandon and artistic control.

The many delights of this adorable domestic comedy were enhanced by the opportunity given us by our Festival hosts to get to know our star, Reginald Denny. There is no doubt that anyone new to the actor would become a fan after this screening, but on this memorable day, he also became our friend.



Sharing movies and making friends for ten years.












19 comments:

  1. Wow, this sounds like a delightful, intimate afternoon celebrating the career of Reginald Denny. I enjoyed watching Kim Pucci's video (and learning that Pat Hitchcock was her godmother). I typically prefer the small film festivals to the big ones because you get to interact more one-on-one with the guests.

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    1. It's true. This was a special movie experience. The odd time attending the Toronto International Film Festival, I've been overwhelmed by the crowds and the line-ups. Although, it does have its charm as well when you hit the right venue and the right guests.

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  2. What size crowds does this fest usually attract? From the way you and Maureen have described it in the past, it sounds comparable to the fest in upstate New York whose name escapes me at the moment. Toronto being a great movie town, I imagine it does pretty well.

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    1. I have been to many sold out events over the years. The capacity at the Revue is 385, and at the Royal about the same, but the layout makes it seem larger. Of the four days of films, the Saturday 1000 Laffs is very popular, and Opening Night is a big deal. Reaching the 10th anniversary milestone is most gratifying.

      Is that The Nitrate Picture Show at the Eastman Museum in Rochester? I'd like to go there someday. Baby steps, I'm trying to talk Garry into the Vintage Film Festival in Port Hope, Ontario. Fingers crossed.

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  3. I don’t think that’s the one. It’ll come to me eventually.

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    1. That's the sort of thing that wakes you up in the wee hours.

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  4. Was REGINALD DENNY best known for comedy or drama? I looked up his name to see if I had seen him in any movies. I saw the 1966 movie BATMAN with ADAM WEST & BURT WARD. It had the four most famous villains from the TV series. According to imdb it was Mr. Dennys last acting job. Earlier today I mentioned Batman (the show) in a post and then the movie shows up until Mr. Dennys credits. Have you always lived in TORONTO?

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    1. Of course I meant the movie showed up under his credits. Interesting post!

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    2. Reginald Denny had a long career and carried off both drama and comedy. I first became a fan with the Bulldog Drummond series. He played Algy, the Brit-Twit sidekick to the hero. I still enjoy the series. My husband says "Yeah, Cat Ballou shot him."

      Some of my favourites are The Lost Patrol (drama), Madame Satan (comedy). He even wrote and directed. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror is one you might have seen.

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  5. You're so lucky to have this and similar events in your city. Thanks for taking us with you. By the way, if you were ever able to get to the Rochester film fest, I would do my level best to be there, too, just to meet you and Garry. It might be a while before I can get to Toronto, but it's on my list.

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    1. Only two things stand in my way. Renewing the old passport (lazy), and sorting out dialysis (doable).

      Okay. I'll look ahead to 2020 and we'll see what happens.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this with us. Getting to know Reginald Denny sounds like an excellent way to spend an afternoon – or any other time, for that matter. ;) Thanks also for the link. I didn't realize his role in unmanned air travel, which was fascinating. One of these days I hope to take in this marvellous silent film festival.

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    1. It will be a real treat to have you join us at the TSFF. There is always something fun, exciting and enlightening to enjoy.

      I knew that Denny was involved with planes, but I didn't fully realize the extent of his contribution. Fascinating.

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  7. Wow - thanks so much for sharing this wonderful event! It sounds as if it was a charming and enjoyable time, and I loved reading your synopsis of the film. What a great story about Reginald Denny (the short film on him was a loving tribute) - it's nice to know that actors could have a fulfilling life outside Hollywood. I know him from the sound era (he's very good in such diverse sound films as Of Human Bondage and Mr Blanding Builds His Dream House - remarkable variety in his roles), but will have to look up his silents. Seems Denny was not only an excellent actor but a lovely human being!

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  8. I'm glad you caught a bit of the charm of the event. Ten years of the Toronto Silent Film Festival has given us many lovely memories.

    I think the first time I saw him in a silent picture was in John Barrymore's Sherlock Holmes. It is obvious that he could do anything!

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  9. Paddy Lee, I'm envious and thank you for sharing the TORONTO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL with your readers. Especially the photos of five lovely ladies, seven if I include Greta Carbo and Laura La Plante.


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    1. Thank you for joining me at the Festival via the blog. Your inclusion of Miss La Plante and Miss Garbo is most gallant.

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  10. Sorry, a cyber gremlin changed Greta Garbo's name to Carbo.

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    1. I know those computer grimlins only too well!

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