Eyes of the Underworld, Happy Anniversary! Opened on April 28, 1929, another Lost Film

Eyes of the Underworld poster

Eyes of the Underworld began production on May 1, 1928 at Universal Studios, under the direction of Leigh Jason; filming was completed by the middle of August of ‘28.[1] One month later, Eyes, was assigned the opening date of April 28, 1929, by Universal; this date remained the same in all Hollywood trade publication reports.[2] The copyright was granted on October 16, ‘28 and the description of the production received its copyright on October 19, 1928.

All modern assertions are that, Eyes of the Underworld, was silent, but in my research I found an advertisement in one New York State city, which included the tag-line: “With Sound.” Yet, this could have been a mistake on the exhibitor’s part or a false “hook” in desperation to pay the bills.

Troy Times (Troy, New York) June 18, 1929

Troy Times (Troy, New York) June 18, 1929

 

The Motion Picture News, in 1929, used symbols in their release listings to differentiate, synchronized scores, sound effects, dialogue, incidental songs, all-talkie, disc and sound-on-film; Eyes of the Underworld, received none of those symbols in its listing in the magazine.[3] The film was re-released on April 28, 1930;[4] in that, Exhibitors Herald World, entry, Eyes appears with an asterisk, which denoted either a silent film or a film with both silent and sound versions, but, Eyes, did not have any sound element symbol after its genre category, which Exhibitors Herald World was accustom to using. To further classify, Eyes, as a silent film we find the movie mentioned in, Music for Silent Films 1894-1929: A Guide, with the musical setting for the film compiled by M. Winkler, and the theme being, Rendezvous D’Amour, by Leo Edwards; the item referenced was marked in pencil with the date, Thursday 4/18. That was just a week prior to the first showings of Eyes of the Underworld.[5] If there was no sound elements at all, then this has, Eyes of the Underworld, falling into the “lost films” rare category of, “late silent lost.”

Eyes of the Underworld was produced by Universal Pictures (another Universal film considered lost) and was released on Sunday, April 28, 1929. Although this date has long been accepted as the premiere, it was actually seen nearly a week earlier in Schenectady, New York, at the, Happy Hour Theater, on Tuesday, April 23, 1929;[6] the theater was located at 138 S. Center.

Schenectady Gazette, Schenectady, New York, April 23, 1929

Schenectady Gazette, Schenectady, New York, April 23, 1929

 

Eyes was a silent black & white, 5 reel picture, directed by Leigh Jason (The Mad Miss Manton, 1938, Three Girls About Town, 1941) and Ray Taylor (serials, series-films, B-movies: Tailspin Tommy in the Great Air Mystery 1935, Flash Gordon (uncredited), 1936, Dick Tracy, 1937 and more than 150 other titles).

The rights to the story was purchased from William Berke, AKA, William Lester, a prolific director, producer and writer for forty years (1918-1958);[7] the scenario was adapted by Leigh Jason and Val Cleveland (AKA Carl Krusada, tons of western titles, with a significant amount of work in silent cinema), and Cleveland was also responsible for the titles. For too long Berke has went uncredited for his part in this one of the last gasps of the silent film era.

Photography duties belonged to Al Jones and Frank Redman (a lot of series work: Dick Tracy, The Falcon, The Saint); Eyes of the Underworld starred, Bill Cody (Pat Doran), Sally Blane (Florence Hueston), Arthur Lubin (Gang Leader), Harry Tenbrook (Gimpy Johnson), Charles Clary (John Hueston) and Monty Montague (Gardener).

Although saddled with the modern gagster title of, Eyes of the Underworld, the film was considered a western, yet involved a gang called the Racketeers,[8] and what do gangsters, islands, car chases have to do with a western, we may never know but the plot went as such… John Hueston is a wealthy newspaper publisher, who plans on publishing an exposé of a criminal gang, but before the article can go to press, publisher Hueston is shot dead. Pat Doran, a rich sportsman, consoles Hueston’s daughter Florence, at her home, when members of the gang break into the house in an effort to get the incriminating evidence that Florence’s father has accumulated. Pat chases the crooks off and then follows them to their lair; the criminals capture Pat, and they imprison him on a deserted island, but Pat escapes , manages to round up the gang, and wins the love of Florence.

I found no trace of photos or drawings for display advertising in the newspapers, and what little adverts were seen, were mostly one line or bold, large text in a box; not much to draw the attention of the movie patron. It seems ticket sales were low for this William Cody action flick; his other “underworld” film, The Price of Fear (October, 1928), was still playing when Eyes debuted, and overall received better advertising and a kinder reception.

Sedalia Democrat, Sadalia, Missouri, May 9, 1929

Sedalia Democrat, Sadalia, Missouri, May 9, 1929

Eyes of the Underworld article The_Mason_City_Globe_Gazette_Mon__Jun_17__1929_

Mason City Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, June 17, 1929

 

 The Underworld Eyes Cast:

Eyes of the Underworld Bill Cody

Bill Cody

Eyes of the Underworld Sally Blane

 

Eyes of the Underworld Monte Monteague

Monte Monteague

 

Eyes of the Underworld Charles Clary1

Eyes of the Underworld Arthur Lubin.php

Arthur Lubin

Eyes of the Underworld Harry Tenbrook

Harry Tenbrook

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Film Daily, April 27, 1928

Exhibitors Daily Review, August 15, 1915

[2] Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, September 15, 1928

[3] Motion Picture News, May 4, 1929

[4] Exhibitors Herald World, November 15, 1930

[5] Music for Silent Films 1894-1929: A Guide, compiled by Gillian B. Anderson, published by the Library of Congress,

1988, page 40

[6] Schenectady Gazette (Schenectady, New York) April 23, 1929

[7] Film Daily, April 24, 1928

[8] Waterville Times (Waterville, New York) November 14, 1929

 

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