Like most people in my age group, Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. And like many others my age, I fell out of love with Star Wars around the years 1997-99, when the not-so-special editions and the prequels were being inflicted on us. Around the same time, I was starting to get into silent film. I had never really liked Cecil B. DeMille’s clunky sound epics but I decided to give his early silent work a chance.
Wow! What a revelation! Many of DeMille’s sound films are plagued with plodding pace, horrendous dialogue and worse performances. His early silents, on the other hand, are snappy, clever and cheeky. I was hooked.
It struck me that the problems of later DeMille are similar to the problems of modern George Lucas. Both men started out strong but were soon hampered by tin ears for dialogue and the ability to coax horrendous performances out of normally good actors. And yet their films made gobs of money at the box office. Further, both directors were seduced by the absolute control that studio shoots and rear projection/greenscreen offered, leaving their productions with a stifled atmosphere.
So, who better to direct the silent version of Star Wars than Mr. DeMille?
Princess Leia was an easy choice. The sporty Florence La Badie would be ideal. Can’t you see her wielding a blaster? Plus, the hair!
Han Solo will be played by DeMille regular Elliott Dexter. As proven in A Romance of the Redwoods, he has the roguish manner to carry off the role. (I briefly considered casting Harrison Ford #1 but I don’t want to go to that well too many times. Besides, Harrison the First is entirely to pleasant and affable onscreen to be shooting green men under the table. Elliott Dexter would have no such qualms.)
For Luke Skywalker, I was torn between Bobby Harron and Charles Ray. Both were experienced with the whole “farm boy” thing and both were very good actors. I ultimately chose Ray because I felt he physically suited the part better.
Chewbacca was a bit of a problem. Aliens were not a common feature in ‘teens films. I finally decided to think like a 1915 filmmaker and cast Teddy the Keystone Dog in the part. Genius dogs were very popular and Teddy was a good actor. Plus, awwwwww!
Burr McIntosh has the proper gravity to be Obi Wan Kenobi. He is more strapping than Alec Guinness but is that right blend of fatherly and no-nonsense.
Grand Moff Tarkin was a challenge because Peter Cushing is a tough act to follow (or is it precede?) but I ultimately chose Tully Marshall, that remarkably versatile character actor. And for Darth Vader, I needed someone who could command a ship, strangle his subordinates and pull off the injured father routine. So I chose Hobart Bosworth. What he lacks in height, he more than makes up for in screen presence.
Finally, the droids. I have chosen to call them Clockwork Mechanical Men (with a nod to L. Frank Baum), as that would be more in keeping with the pop culture of the period. Comedians Slim Summerville and Bobby Vernon will play the parts, in heavy makeup and elaborate costume.
The look of the film is what would now be described as “steam punk” but I resent the appropriation of all Victorian, Edwardian and Great War-era science fiction by that term. I prefer to call it early sci-fi or high tech-low tech.
The droids in particular are probably going to look quite a bit different. Some combination of Oz-style mechanical men and The Steam Man of the Prairies. The ships will have a more spherical shape, in keeping with H.G. Wells.
What do you think, sirs?