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Film / Lonesome

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At the beach, no longer lonesome.

"It's funny how lonesome a fella can be, especially with a million people around him."
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Lonesome is a 1928 silent film with some talking sequences, directed by Paul Fejos, starring Barbara Kent and Glenn Tryon.

Mary and Jim are two random young New York City working stiffs—she is a telephone switchboard operator, and he works a machine press. One day a truck with a marching band goes through their neighborhood advertising $1 round-trip tickets to the beach and Coney Island. Jim, who notices Mary on the bus to the park, is immediately taken with her, and she returns his interest, and they fall in love. They are enjoying themselves so much that they don't even think to get each others' names and addresses, which threatens to become a major problem when a quirk of fate separates them.

Lonesome is an example of the "part-talkie", a convention that was briefly very common during the transition from silent to sound, between 1927 and 1929. It was originally shot as a silent film, but with the talkie craze in full swing by that point, three short dialogue scenes were inserted into the film. (The most famous part-talkie is The Jazz Singer, commonly remembered as the first talking film but actually mostly silent.)

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Tropes:

  • Alone Among the Couples: Both Jim and Mary, all of whose friends seem to already have someone. Each one turns down an invite to go out with a couple, for fear of being a third wheel.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Discussed Trope, see the page quote, and applying to both Jim and Mary, two lonely people in Manhattan. Jim says this to Mary at the beach.
  • Amusement Park: At least half of the film follows Mary and Jim as they spend their wonderfully romantic day at Coney Island.
  • Big Applesauce: The film opens with shots of the New York skyline, and a montage showing the hustle and bustle of the city.
  • Boy Meets Girl: The story couldn't be simpler, really. That's it. It makes for probably the most sweetly romantic movie ever made during the silent film era.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over a single day, as shown by Mary's calendar, 12 hours or so.
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  • Fainting: Mary faints when the roller coaster careens out of control, which is part of the reason why she's separated from Jim.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Jim and Mary are talking about getting married after one day together at the park.
  • The Reveal: The final scene reveals that Jim and Mary, two total strangers who met and fell in love at Coney Island, are actually next-door-neighbors in the same apartment building. Saved from Contrived Coincidence territory by earlier scenes which establish that Jim and Mary both heard the same advertising truck and both boarded the same tour bus to the park.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Jim and Mary narrowly miss each other several times while trying to find each other again at the park, including one scene where they are leaning on opposite sides of the same billboard.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Mary is seen upside down in one shot when Jim does a handstand to impress her.
  • Slice of Life: A very simple story. Two young people meet, fall in love, are separated by bad luck, and find each other again shortly thereafter. That's all that happens.
  • Splash of Color: Lots of hand-coloring during the Coney Island scenes—the moon, balloons, bunting, red coloring for when the wheel of a roller-coaster catches fire, a golden semi-circle shining down on Jim and Mary when they're alone on the beach.
  • Suddenly Voiced: As noted in the intro, the "part-talkie" convention produces this effect. A viewer going in blind may be surprised when Jim and Mary start talking out of nowhere about a half-hour in.
  • Thunder Equals Downpour: Clear and pleasant day on Coney Island—pan to the sky, boom of thunder, commence torrential rain.
  • Title Drop: "We'll never be lonesome anymore", Jim promises to Mary, during one of the talking scenes when they are chatting on the beach.
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