Holy Mackerel! The complete version of James Whale's "Old Dark House" is on YouTube! Fragments of this are put up from time to time but are always taken down soon after. This will probably disappear as well, but we have it for a short time, so let's make what we can of it.
I want to focus on the extraordinary acting in two sequences. The first is the one (above and below) where Elspeth Dudgeon (thanks to Jenny for the name correction) plays an old, bed-ridden man who warns the young couple of the danger of staying overnight in the house. Dudgeon's's performance is done in what I imagine is an old, 19th Century acting style, one which is grounded in live theater and an appreciation of classic literature, and not in acting classes. Compare her style to the more modern elocution style of Raymond Massey in the same scene.
The first part of the video is filmed in a static, old-fashioned manner. I recommend fast forwarding past that and starting at the 3:45 mark. Start there and play it to the end. The Dudgeon scene continues on the video below.
Dudgeon's performance ends about two minutes in (above), but watch the whole of this second video, because the action sets up the stunning appearance of Saul in the third video below.
I call it "eccentric acting" because it attempts to build on an actor's unique gifts and vision of the world, and doesn't try to fit him into a cookie cutter mold the way later acting theories do.
I also like the way eccentric actors were informed by literature. Their devotion to the printed page gives them an oratorical style, as much akin to oral interpretation as to acting. Compare Olivier's reading of the St. Crispin's Day speech to Branaugh's. Both are good, but Olivier plays with the words...filters them through his love for the music of the English language and of subtext, and his own complex personality. In this sense, Olivier is what I would call an eccentric actor. Shakespeare wrote for the eccentric acting style and so did Dickens.
Well, there it is. Watch the excerpts as soon as possible because they could be taken down any time...maybe even later today.