SO MANY dramatists have tried their hand at the situation of the husband who disguises himself as an actor that the idea is beginning to get a little dog-eared. This time it is Maurice Chevalier who doubles as a music-hall impersonator and a Parisian count; and as might be expected, matters get most complicated when the impersonator—or maybe it was the count impersonating the impersonator—finds his way into the countess’s bedroom.
From that point on, the only thing to do is to sit back and let the other people do the worrying; knowing that when all the improprieties have been duly observed the right I people will find their way into the right (quarters; i.e., the right sleeping quarters. This gives you time off to observe and admire M. Chevalier’s ingratiating antics,
I and Merle Oberon’s oblique-eyed beauty,
! together with some elaborate ensemble numbers arranged with umbrellas and ! umbrella-sized hats. On the whole, “Folies i Bergeres de Paris” is a rather minor Chevalier item, w'ith its special entertainment features too thinly spread out to cover the threadbare plot.
The Good Fairy
IN THIS picture, pretty Margaret Sullavan has a rôle that might have suited the early Mary Pick ford perfectly; providing, of course, that Miss Pickford didn’t understand the worst parts. It is all about an idealistic little orphan, Luisa, who spends her time telling fairy tales to the other orphans. Luisa believes that the outer world is simply the setting for a larger fairy tale, and when she suddenly finds herself actually out in it she is delightedly ready to accept sables, cheques and motor cars from a rich, middleaged admirer, looking on them as a fairy gift rather than as a basis for practical negotiation.
The plot thus skates along very gracefully for an hour and a half over the thinnest possible ice; but in the end Luisa finds riches, happiness and true love without the sacrifice of anything but her time. Frank Morgan’s brilliant comedy as the rich admirer keeps things continuously on the move and covers up satisfactorily the occasional places where the plot is stretched a little thin. “The Good Fairy” is a wickedly innocent little anecdote which delicately avoids giving offense.
The Man Who Knew Too Much
THIS English film is one of the very best mystery plays of the season, finely acted and tersely and dramatically directed. It is a gangster play, but on an international scale, w'ith kidnappings, code messages, war mutterings on the Balkan front, and death threats carried on in the polite accents of European diplomacy.
There is a fine exciting climax in a London street bombardment, w'ith, as an ingratiating British touch, the Chief of Police taking tea at the very pitch of operations. Peter Lorre’s performance as a sort of undercover Napoleon working blandly to stand Europe on its head, is one of the most brilliant screen achievements of the year.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
HOLLYWOOD continues to give the Dickens enthusiasts cause for cheering.
! “Edwin Drood,” it will be remembered, is the story that Dickens never finished, the darkling tale of drugs and murder and cathedral crypts. In this case the collaboration between the author and the movies is so close that unless you know the story you won’t be able to recognize the point at
which Dickens left off and Hollywood took up the plot.
Like most mystery stories, “Edw'in Drood” is a little hampered by its love interest, the heroine in this case being one of those flighty young ladies on whom Dickens seemed to dote—a crinolined piece w'ho giggled, sucked lollypops and sw'ooned at the breath of danger. Once the facts are established, however, and Edwin Drood (David Manners) is marked for his awful fate—the tomb selected, the quicklime prepared—there isn’t any lack of excitement. In fact it’s the sort of picture that makes you sit forward chewing your ticket-stubs to rags and muttering warnings to the victim. Claude Rains, one of the exceptional actors who can play a monster rôle without the aid of hobgoblin make-up, gives a chilling performance as John Jasper the murderer.
The Little Colonel
SHIRLEY TEMPLE’S pictures all tend to be pretty much the same, being built entirely around her special qualities and talents. As she is young, amiable and feminine, she is invariably shown in contrast to a disagreeable old gentleman. Because she can make her lip quiver alarmingly, she is usually deprived of one or both of her parents in the course of the story. The dog angle has to be taken into consideration— Shirley photographs nicely with a dog.
“The Little Colonel” doesn’t vary much from formula except that this time we have Shirley Temple in technicolor, the whole picture flushing up a wondrous pink in the final sequence. Meanwhile Shirley is stretching up and threatening to outgrow not only her clothes but her stories and her career. There are signs, too, of increasing precocity and self-possession which threaten her childish charm. With Shirley’s astonishing brightness, it can scarcely have escaped her attention that she is the It child of America.
WHEN JOE MARTIN, a professional dancer (George Raft) asks the heroine of “Rumba” (Carole Lombard ) the name of her perfume, she answers dreamily. “All I know is it cost $35 an ounce.” This gives a clue not only to her financial rating but to her point of view. Hers is the shopping attitude toward life and love. But when she attempts to negotiate her admirer through her $20,000,000 drawing account, he rejects her promptly and sets out to humiliate her. So their affair rumbas on through a long series of dancing acts, misunderstandings, passionate avowals and withdrawals.
George Raft’s performance as the dancer is professionally acceptable though not particularly exciting. And Carole Dimbard continues to look like something grown very specially under glass, and to reveal herself as one of the most affected young women on the screen.
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