THE TOY SHOP (Tiffany-Stahl, 1928)
Directed by Martin Justice. Photographed by Ray Rennahan.
The toymaker: Joseph Swickard. The little girl: Virginia Marshall.
This one-reel short connects very well with one of the most-anticipated events of this year's Cinefest—the long-unseen Mamba. Both films are two-color Technicolor products of the small Tiffany studio, and both feature the venerable character actor Joseph Swickard, who's best known for playing Valentino's father in The Four Horsemen. (Little Miss Marshall was a silent vet as well—she played, among other roles, Barbara Kent's character as a child in Flesh and the Devil.) In 1928, Tiffany contracted with Technicolor for a series of synchronized shorts, advertised as the first sound films in color. (Though, in the great tradition of film “firsts,” there had been scads of predecessors.) Called “Color Symphonies,” they were well-produced display pieces with such titles as In a Persian Market and In a Chinese Temple Garden. The Toy Shop was the holiday item in the series, and has fortunately survived intact, Technicolor and all. While its sentimentality gets perhaps a little “icky”—when you see it, you'll know what I mean—the design and score and choreography are nicely done, and it's fun seeing and hearing the perennial “Parade of the Wooden [or Tin] Soldiers” performed years before the Rockettes made it a standard part of New York's Christmas season.