QUESTION: The 1927 film Underworld depicts life in the depths of criminal action in the city. Whose actions are told in the 21st century Underworld franchise?
A). Gnomes and trolls in the underground world of the forest
B). Humans in a dystopian future after nuclear war destroyed the world above
C). Vampires and werewolves fighting each other
D). The sew shop employees where the world's undergarment industries are headquartered
In our Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour, we celebrate the history of film through posters and headshots. Today's blog is dedicated to a film that was released in 1927, but it almost never happened. It was the end of the silent film era. The Jazz Singer would be released that year, the first film with sound. Movies were already a big deal by the Twenties and one of the most popular form of entertainment in the nation.
Released on August 20, 1927, Underworld had been written off by its distributor Paramount Pictures before it even reached the theater. It was written by Ben Hecht, then altered by other writers. Hecht was unhappy with the changes and tried to get his name removed from the credits. Paramount considered the film to be sloppy. Then, the original director, Arthur Rossen, was fired and replaced with Josef von Sternberg, who was only thirty-three at the time and not yet established in Hollywood. The film is about gangsters and a criminal love triangle. (It is available on video through the Criterion Collection, so we don't want to spoil anything here.) Upon its completion, Paramount decided they would give it a release in exactly one movie theater - in New York City. Fortunately, people saw it and liked it so much that it became a hit and Paramount was compelled to give it wider distribution. The movie garnered an Academy Award for Ben Hecht - the first movie ever to win a writing award - and has gone on to be regarded as one of the best gangster films ever made. How's that for a disappointment?
ANSWER: C). Vampires and werewolves fighting each other.