AFTER Hollywood bought “The Invisible Man” (Universal) from Mr. H. G. Wells, it took them three years to figure out how to photograph it. And having seen the picture, you and I might spend the rest of our lives on the problem without being able to figure out how they did it.
"The Invisible Man” is the story of a modern scientist and his discovery of a powerful drug which made him lose his visibility while retaining his substance. What the Hollywood technicians were called on to do was photograph the invisible, showing Mr. Claude Rains both absent and preternaturally present. In this they succeeded dazzlingly and mystifyingly. You may say it is done with wires, but this would hardly account for the extraordinary precision and authenticity of the invisible man’s actions as represented by his trousers, his shirt and his cigarette. Or you may explain it by double-exposure or make-up or some manipulation of the film negative. My own explanation is that they gave Mr. Claude Rains a powerful drug which rendered him invisible. You'll just have to work it out in your own way.
"The Invisible Man” is not on the whole as terrifying as the rest of the hobgoblin genre as “Dracula,” for instance, or "Frankenstein,” or “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” But it is considerably more entertaining at least from the point of view of those of us who can get only a limited pleasure out of being scared to death. It has its grim moments, for the effect of the drug is to render the user not only invisible but paranoiac. The general impression, however, is of comedy rather than of horror, and the goings-on of the invisible man suggest at moments that it is Mr. Oliver Hardy who has taken the drug by mistake and is capering about in the hero’s trousers. Even at that, however, it isn’t a picture for people under ten years of age.
Broadway Through a Keyhole
The very best you can say for “Broadway Through a Keyhole”' (United Artists), Columnist Walter Winchell’s contribution to the films, is that Constance Cummings looks pretty in it and acts nicely much too nicely, considering that she is the promised bride of an important New York gangster. Rocci, Miss Cummings’ fiancé, has a fine office, headquarters of The Poultrymen’s Protective Association, which is organized, amusingly enough, to protect poultrymen from Mr. Rocci. Here he sits all day long at a big desk, arranging jobs for his friends and funerals for his enemies. Public Enemy No. 1 gets Miss Cummings a job in a night club and promotes her rapidly to be head of the show, when she promptly falls in love with Public Enemy No. 2, a crooner.
And so it goes, with bullets singing, steel shutters clanging, and public enemies popping like rabbits in and out of hide-outs. And it would all be pretty deplorable and a reflection on the moral chaos of our times if the characters didn’t all reform in the end. and especially if the entire caste, including Rocci, didn't look and act exactly like the personnel of a young peoples’ church dramatic society. “Broadway Through a Keyhole” is foolish enough to be funny but not funny enough to go to see.
“Only Yesterday” (Universal) is chiefly satisfactory because it brings to the screen Margaret Sullavan, a new and exceptionally competent young actress starring for the first time. Miss Sullavan is called on to play the part of the innocent heroine first seduced, then abandoned undoubtedly the screen’s toughest assignment. It takes youth, enthusiasm and very special gifts to bring fresh feeling and validity to the early situation in “Only Yesterday,” as it does to the prolonged deathbed scene at the end. That Miss Sullavan really contrives to move her audience by her purely cinematic predicaments is a remarkable tribute to her talents as an actress. John Boles plays the part of the handsome army lieutenant who first betrays her into motherhood, then goes off and forgets her—less, it appears, from natural scurviness than from a mild preoccupation with his own affairs.
“Only Yesterday” is a handsome film mounted with the greatest elegance. You can scarcely fail to be impressed by the smart interiors of the sets, the handsome exteriors of the players. Everywhere there are impressive window draperies, smart staircases, wrought iron trimmings, the glossy gleam of chromium and monel metal. There are loads, too, of beautiful clothes— the heroine runs a gown shop on Fifth Avenue, so you may imagine ! And not a shoulder treatment in the lot that goes back beyond the spring of 1933, though the action of the play itself goes back to 1917. And finally the picture is so deftly and shrewdly directed that it almost, though not quite, conceals the fact that it is what, after all, it is—a Screen Souvenir in modem dress.
One Man’s Journey
No matter what movie you get into these days, you seem to be pretty sure to find Mr. Lionel Barrymore somewhere in the picture, and usually well to the front. Sometimes we think this is a good thing, and occasionally we wonder if Mr. Barrymore ever heard of the N.R.A. In “One Man’s Journey” (RKO), however, it is quite notably a good thing. As Dr. Eli Watts, the country physician who takes his pay in vegetables, sacrificing to his profession even his professional ambition, Lionel Barrymore gives an expert, straightforward, and curiously gentle performance. Here again we have an example of how wise handling can freshen and restore a somewhat frayed and faded rôle; and also how sensitive direction can make a story worth watching even when you know in advance every turn the plot is likely to take. “One Man’s Journey” is a simple, earnest, rather tearful little story, which frequently surprises you by making you believe it.
“The Chief” (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) is a pleasurably demented offering, featuring radio’s favorite lunatic, Mr. Ed Wynn. In this picture Mr. Wynn mounts his favorite idiosyncrasy—he is Fire Chief, but that has little or nothing to do with the plot—and rides it excitedly in every direction. No doubt Mr. Wynn had some plan in mind when he set out to make this picture, but the original idea appears to have become garbled almost at once. Appearing in the opening sequences as The Chief, he launches out almost at once into a parody of “The Bowery,” which naturally suggests selling youths’ hats in a departmental store, and in the course of this occupation he finds himself running in an aldermanic election, and presently goes insane to convince the electors they shouldn’t vote for him. The rest of the action he clears up, between paroxysms of giggling over the radio. If you don’t like Ed Wynn you won’t like “The Chief”, as there is really nothing but Ed Wynn in it.
THE SIGN POST
THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII—Brilliant and elaborate historical play, with Charles Laughton as Henry. Comedy rich and high. On the whole, a family picture.
FOOTLIGHT PARADE—With James Cagney and Ruby Keeler. Warner Brothers show what can be done with an aquarium, a waterfall and several hundred pairs of arms and legs.
THE BOWERY — Rowdy but enjoyable panorama of Bowery life in the ’90’s. With George Raft, Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper. Something in it for everyone.
NIGHT FLIGHT—One of the finest of the aerial pictures. For both sexes, most tastes and all ages over ten. All-star cast.
ANN VICKERS—Conscientious and dignified consideration of modern woman and her problems. More women than men will find this interesting.
PADDY THE NEXT BEST THING—A picture for adolescent girls and all who share their point of view.
BOMBSHELL—With Jean Harlow. Hollywood as you may have imagined it—and as it may even be. Children, and even adults, may find it exhausting.
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