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Kiki (1926)

Norma Talmadge Productions/First National. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Directed by Clarence Brown. Scenario by Hans Kraly. Photography by Oliver Marsh. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Ronald Colman, Gertrude Astor, Marc MacDermott, George K. Arthur, William Orlamond, Erwin Connelly, Frankie Darro, Mack Swain. 9 reels. Copies of this film are located at the Library of Congress (complete 35 mm. theatrical proj. prt. created by combining reels 1, 5-9 of the domestic print and reels 1-4 of a French language foreign print with translated intertitles), 35 mm. viewing copy of reels 1,5-9), and Museum of Modern Art in New York (16 mm. viewing print, incomplete (same sequences as the LOC viewing copy), with Czech intertitles and a negative copied from material from the Czech Film Archive, who have an incomplete nitrate copy); a trailer (35 mm.) is located at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Kiki is available on video from Kino



still with Marc MacDermott This is a posed still of an action that appears fleetingly in the film as she changes clothes. Marc MacDermott is the entertained observer. MacDermott was another veteran of one-reelers, starting with Edison in 1909. He has important roles in three other Talmadge films: The New Moon, The Lady and Graustark. (click on the thumbnail for a larger view). There is an incomplete article about him here
Norma seems to have had fun with her wardrobe in this film Thanks to Cleo in Luxembourg for this photo. For a couple more pictures of this goofy costume, see the little Russian book, a still at the Silent Film Still Archive, as well as the ad below
(click on the thumbnail for a larger view)
Kiki card
Advertisement for Kiki An advertisement for the film
Some more publicity on the film, courtesy of Derek Boothroyd Kiki publicity
A different outfit, this was the chorus girl costume Kiki in chorus girl costume
Advertisement for Kiki Front of the German magazine Film Kurier no. 523 from 1926, courtesy of Derek Boothroyd Kiki in chorus girl costume
Magazine cover of Kiki And a cover of Film Complet of October 14, 1926, also courtesy of Derek Boothroyd
A Rothman's cigarette card, also courtesy of Derek Boothroyd Cigarette Card of Kiki

Still photos from this film from Silent Ladies

Picture 1                      Picture 2                      Picture 3


Review from Variety
Viewing comments
Video reviews from The New York Times and Turner Classic Movies

Review from Variety, April 7, 1926

Kiki

First National release presented by Joseph M. Schenck with Norma Talmadge starred in Ilana Kraly's adaptation of the Picard-Belasco play, Ronald Colman featured. Directed by Clarence Brown. At the Capitol, New York, April 4, week. Running time, 90 minutes

Kiki Norma Talmadge
Victor Renal Ronald Colman
Paulette Gertrude Astor
Baron Rapp Marc Macdermott
Adolphe George K. Arthur
Brule William Orlamond
Joly Erwin Connelly
Pierre Frankie Darro
Pastryman Mack Swain

When Jos. M. Schenck bought this picture from Belasco and paid about $75,000, Variety published the story, and it met with denials on all sides.

If $75,000 is really the price paid--it wasn't too much. "Kiki" has made a whale of a good comedy, not as well suited to Miss Talmadge as many other vehicles, but so filled with situations, slapstick and laughs that in its present excellent scenario form, there's not a chance of its flopping before a real audience.

Most peculiar of all is Miss Talmadge in the title part. She is not a comedienne and never has been; she is too large and too tall for the part. But with all these things against her, she gives a creditable and amusing performance, which, if it isn't as subtle as it might have been, is about as effective as possible in its slapstick way. Miss Talmadge falls over couches, gets kicked out into the alley, kicks a valet around, does a little rolling over the floor and is a general roughneck.

The story, as almost anybody in a city of any size will remember, is of a Parisian gamin who falls in love with Victor Renal, a revue manager. She joins his show, ruins the opening night, but by her keen mind and various methods of trickery, so ingratiates herself into his affections that in the end he is only too glad to give up his old sweetheart and marry her.

And Kiki, despite her vicious temper and uncivilized ways, is as pure as snow and determined to keep herself so until the time when she marries. Thus, is the curse of the French play taken off, for in photoplay form, this is thoroughly in keeping with the requirements.

Ronald Colman, as the adored man, does well; ditto Marc McDermott as an old roue. Numerous smaller parts are well taken.

Aside from the work of Miss Talmadge, Clarence Brown, the director, is entitled to much credit, for his handling is apparent in many spots. Moreover, the scenario is unusually fine, while the physical end of the production is lavish, solid, and handsome.

Thus, as a whole, "Kiki" is just one more good picture made by Joe Schenck with Norma Talmadge starred. If any other screen actress has held up so good a record in recent years as Miss Talmadge, it might be well to recall no other actress on the stage or screen has played such varied roles with unmistakable skill and ability.

"Kiki" is a box office setup and good for all over the country.

Sisk.




Viewing comments(in reverse chronological order)

Posted February 28, 2010. Kiki is finally available on video! Score is by The Biograph Players. It is paired on the same disk with Within the Law .

Posted July 20, 2006. My comments on this film are taking on the appearance of a blog. I saw the restored print of Kiki that was run at the Stanford Theatre on June 17, 2006. What a difference a complete print, a good musical score, and an audience make! The film was a hit with the audience, several people came up to me afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed Talmadge. Most were surprised to find that she wasn't primarily a comedienne. The organist, Jim Riggs, after viewing a study print to create the score, exclaimed to the audience "What a face!" The added reels, in which she gets the chorus job and loses it, are the funniest in the film and flesh out her character. She is very cute and appealing as the clutzy chorus girl, and her battle with Gertrude Astor is one of the few catfight sequences that i've actually found funny. The later reels still drag a bit (particularly as the Stanford habitually plays films a little on the slow side).

The film was restored by the Library of Congress at the request of David Packard (thank you! thank you! thank you!), who wanted it for his wonderful Ronald Colman retrospective at the Stanford. They combined the reels i had previously seen from the Pickford estate with a foreign print (which had reels 1-8) from Raymond Rohauer. There still are some continuity lapses (where did she get the trunk of clothes?), but this may have been the way the film was originally released. This print had primarily French intertitles, with some remaining English flash titles. James Cozart of the Library of Congress asked Derek Boothroyd and myself to work on the translation of those French titles without a corresponding English flash titles (those that did have English flash titles showed that the French translation often had little to do with the original English). This was a fascinating and educational project, and i'm grateful for having been able to work on it in my own small way. This print is now making the round of other festivals, so that more audiences will finally get a chance to discover Norma Talmadge.

Posted July 5, 2005. I also viewed the 16 mm material at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The intertitles were Czech, but it was the same sequences as in the Mary Pickford Library material which is the screening copy at the Library of Congress. I don't know whether the camera angles are the same or not (it could be from a foreign negative, i would have to run them side by side to tell). But it contains no new sequences. Watching it again (at a more appropriate speed than the Pickford Library video), I still can't quite warm up to Talmadge's performance. I think it is because i find the character so bizarre and annoying. However, the few other people i have corresponded with who have seen it liked her performance very much. A matter of personal taste, i guess.

Posted 1999. Kiki was a complete change of pace for Talmadge, playing a raucous and belligerent gamine who creates havoc wherever she goes. Though obviously too mature for the part--one would question the sanity of a grown woman who behaved like this, Talmadge does throw herself enthusiastically into the part, taking pratfalls and delivering punches with glee. Whether she's entirely believable in the part is another question; it would seem more suitable to Clara Bow or the young Mabel Normand, or perhaps even to Talmadge herself a few years earlier. Modern writings on this film say that audiences were horrified at Talmadge tackling such a role, but contemporary reviews don't suggest anything of the sort, and the film seems to have been quite successful and well received. Director Clarence Brown said of her "she was a natural-born comic; you could turn on a scene with her and she'd go on for five minutes without stopping or repeating herself." The film is well produced with an attractive supporting cast, including the always dapper Ronald Colman, and is always interesting and entertaining.
Print viewed: video transfer of reels 1,5-9 from the Mary Pickford Library.




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Last revised, July 15, 2013