Roughneck stoker Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) gets into all sorts of trouble during a brief shore leave when he falls hard for Mae (Betty Compson), a wise and weary dance-hall girl, in Josef von Sternberg’s evocative portrait of lower-class waterfront folk. Fog-enshrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), and sensual performances by Bancroft and Compson make this one of the legendary director’s finest works, and one of the most exquisitely crafted films of its era. –The Criterion Collection
Born in Vienna, director Joseph von Sternberg spent much of his youth in New York; his entrée into show business was as a film repairer for the World Film Company of Fort Lee, NJ. After returning to Austria to complete his education, he joined the U.S. Signal Corps as a photographer in 1917, then took assistant director jobs after the end of World War I. It was either actor Elliot Dexter or an anonymous producer who suggested that Sternberg would go farther in the industry if he affixed a “von” to his last name, à la Erich von Stroheim. Von Sternberg went whole hog in creating a “genius” veneer, adopting a strutting, imperious attitude, dressing in regulation beret and puttees, and even growing an obnoxious little mustache so he would be certain to be hated and feared. This posturing tended to obscure his genuine cinematic gifts, especially in the field of photographic lighting and composition (at one point, he was the only director permitted to carry an American Society of Cinematographers… read more
Sternberg tirou "leite de pedra" com a história de um marinheiro e uma suicida que se casam em meio a uma farra etílica num bar de porto. O domínio estético do diretor fica claro em 'The docks...": o clima soturno do navio e porto - lembro de Eisenstein e seu Potemkin (1925) - enquadramentos e travellings, além da fotografia destacando a beleza de 'anjo' de Compson. Um filme mudo que sobreviveu ao tempo com classe.
Mike A's comment below provides the perfect word to describe this: fluidity. It's a von Sternberg staple and is on full display here. The photography is nothing short of spectacular. Some story limitations hold this one back from being among von Sternberg's very best, but it's still a gorgeous film and a must-see as a masterclass in tasteful direction.
Raymond Griffith, silent comedian, has fallen into such neglect as to be virtually erased from screen history, it seems. None of his comedy
"Criterion's new box set of three silent films by Josef von Sternberg — Underworld (1927), The Last Command (1928) and The Docks of New York
Above: Betty Compson and George Bancroft in Josef von Sternberg's The Docks of New York (1928). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection. George