July 30, 2014

Lovers (1927)


In 1927, Hirschfeld made a handshake agreement with the MGM publicity and advertising department to supply at $15,000 worth of drawings over the year. In his first year, he did this black and white drawing of Lovers to promote the film in print publications. Although a seven year veteran of movie publicity, he had only been drawing caricatures for approximately 18 months when he drew this work, and drawing the theater for less than six months.

While a significant portion of his film work up until this point was still mostly straight drawing, Lovers is an early Hirschfeld line work, straddling the worlds of both caricature and more traditional drawing. Hirschfeld draws the scene in his signature black and white line, with no background or setting, already conscious of eliminating unnecessary detail and simplifying the composition. He accentuates his ink line with an overlay of charcoal, a practice he would soon drop in order for the lines to speak for themselves. Several other film drawings were drawn in similar style, such as Tillie the Toiler and On Ze Boulevard. This is in interesting contrast to the Rin Tin Tin campaign from just the previous year that had suggested more realism and setting (although the dog would soon get the same treatment). 

The film is based on El Gran Galeoto by José Echegaray from the mid 19th century. It was then translated and adapted by Charles Frederic Nirdlinger for the Broadway stage in 1908 as The World and His Wife, leading to a silent Paramount film of the same name in 1920. In 1927, MGM decided on a remake, renaming it Lovers. Alice Terry and Ramon Novarro costarred in this, their fifth and final film together. Terry and Novarro also had an off-screen friendship, and indeed it was Terry who along with her husband director Rex Ingram who helped promote Navarro in his career. The two would frequently appear in public after hours in an effort to conceal Novarro’s homosexuality, yet they often went to predominately gay speakeasies. 

His role as a seducer in Lovers was familiar territory for the “Latin Lover” and his fans. With the death of Valentino the year before, MGM hoped that Navarro would take his place with fans, but he was unable to negotiate talking films and soon faded from the scene. Nevertheless, Navarro was drawn two more times by Hirschfeld. Once the following year for the cover of a how-to book, Breaking Into the Movies, and finally in 1941 in a composite of actors appearing in summer theaters that summer. Alice Terry was only drawn one other time, in the same year for MGM’s The Garden of Allah

As it happens with so many early films, the film is presumed lost. Check your grandmother’s attic.

Katherine Marshall
Archives Assistant 

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