5 thoughts on “TBT: Alexander Hamilton (1931)

  1. And I guess once more we ought to thank you for seeing this, so we don’t have to! ;)

    That said I’d seen a bit of this on youtube ages ago, and noticed a lot of the issues you mentioned. I think there were several factors in play here. Filmmakers were still adjusting to sound, often finding it difficult or impossible to use the same techniques they had with masterpieces of the silent era.The result is that many films were stagey and yes, talky. Though silent films had been made using the plot of famous plays, adapting theatrical productions for talking pictures was a new concept as well, and many filmmakers hadn’t fuly grasped yet how a play might be enhanced with music, or dialogue melded with the intimacy of the closeup.

    Regarding the costumes, studios were hit by the Depression as well, and even during more prosperous years, recycling costumes was fairly common. I suspect many of the gowns you’re seeing on extras and minor characters were indeed originally “Victorian inspired” get-ups meant for productions set in the late 1800s. As for whether the costumes worn by the leading ladies were specially made for them, or there was any attempt at historical accuracy beyond the costume designer’s (very) loose interpretation of the late 18th century silhouette, I have no idea. Earl Luick seems to have specialized more in contemporary dramas like Little Caesar, or male dominated westerns like the Ox-Bow Incident, with a few swasbucklers or musicals. While the influence of current fashions on historical classic films is obvious (as excellently covered in articles on this site), the costuming here seems to be definitely subpar, even compared to the earlier Orphans of the Storm (1921) or Marie Antoinette (1938) a few years later.

    1. All good points. I just wonder why the men’s costumes seem so lavish & trying to be historical but the women’s are so lackluster. Made a pretty good (for the time) attempt at wigs across the board tho, & the sets were all quite excellent, so I get the feeling this was a big-budget production. George Arliss was one of the first & few silent screen stars to make a successful crossover to talkies, & while this film doesn’t seem to have been a major hit, he is much better known for a film based on British Prime Minister Disraeli.

  2. “Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds (called “Mariah” Reynolds in the movie)”

    According to the highly acclaimed Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton (which is what inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical), Maria Reynolds name was “probably” pronounced “Mariah”, which IIRC, is an older variant.

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