These notes accompany the screening of More Competition: Neilan and Vidor on December 9, 10, and 11 in Theater 3.
Marshall “Mickey” Neilan (1891–1958) was an archetypal example of a squandered talent, managing to cling to a twenty-plus-year directorial career before finally giving in to the allures of alcohol. (Many of the great directors suffered from this problem, but only John Ford seemed to control it by generally restricting his benders to between-film breaks.) Blanche Sweet, who had the “honor” of being married to Neilan, and whom he directed in The Sporting Venus (1925), told me a horror story about coming home to her brand new house and finding Mickey, John Barrymore, and other pals competing to see who could spit the most tobacco onto the ceiling. The “boy wonder” was essentially unemployable for the last twenty years of his life. Read more