IF YOU HAVE ever lived in a small town where the best people amused themselves with croquet tournaments, candy pulls, ice-cream sociables, etc., you will feel perfectly at home in “Judge Priest,” Will Rogers’s latest picture. And if you have never lived in such a town, by the time this picture is over you will feel as if you had. There was a beautiful orphan girl in it of unknown origin, and a mysterious stranger who was quite obviously her father; and there are thwarted lovers, and a court-room climax with Henry B. Walthal giving a passionate recitation in the witness box about the Civil War.
None of it is very new; but just the same, before it is over you will probably be wet-eyed, just as the reviewer was. Which proves, I suppose, that hokum, if it is knowingly handled, is still one of the best forms of screen entertainment. Judge Priest, w'ho rules the destinies of the town making the good [People happy and the bad people repentant, is the invention of Irvin Cobb. But Will Rogers, as usual, makes character and story his own and no one else’s.
T)ROBABLY a great many people will stay aw'ay from “Treasure Island” because they feel it is a picture for Henty-aged boys. So it is; but in its present version it has something to offer both sexes and all ages. In fact I know a number of nervous old ladies who like a nice love story and
detest rum and murder but who would get a lot of fun out of this picture.
There is no love story in “Treasure Island” and even angel-faced little Jackie Cooper gets a tot of rum and does his share of killing. But in spite of this the picture has exactly the satisfactory blend of excitement and Peter Pan innocence that have made the novel a classic. Wallace Beery as the one-legged pirate, Long John Silver, is magnificent; and as for Jackie Cooper, a more moral, competent and sensible child never moved about among a gang of cutthroats and eighteenth century plug-uglies. Don’t miss “Treasure Island.” It’s a grand picture.
One Night of Love
TNON’T MISS “One Night of Love” either. It is opera, but opera pretty well distilled, so that people who dislike and won’t go unless dragged there by their betters won’t have a chance to get restive. It is about an American girl (Grace Moore) who goes to Italy to study music and is discovered by the world’s greatest vocal maestro (Tullio Carmenad), w'ho promises to train her for opera on condition that they don’t fall in love. They then fall in love with each other immediately, and after that there are jealousies, transports, rages, eternal partings and even ripe-tomato tlirowings.
The diva returns to America, but finds she can’t sing without her maestro to prompt her. However, everything ends beautifully, with Miss Moore on the Metropolitan stage singing “Some Day He’ll Come” in top form, because Maestro Carmenati has come and is sitting in the prompter’s box, shedding tears of sheer admiration. Miss Moore’s voice in fact, is fine enough to make anyone shed tears of admiration, and the picture is brilliantly narrated, with concert climaxes at exactly the right places and intervals.
Chu Chin Chow
CHU CHIN CHOW” the British-Gaumont screen version of the popular operetta, runs well into two hours; which isn’t too long if you are as fond as I am of that gayest of extravaganzas. As a spectacle, this English picture almost rivals a Cecil de Mille production, though fortunately it is much sprightlier than Mr. de Mille’s solemn scenes of orgy. Fritz Kortner is the prankishly ferocious brigand chief—the best Chu Chin Chow I have ever seen. You will probably miss the brilliant colorings of the stage production, but until technicolor can offer something besides blotting-paper pinks and blues, this English picture is just about as fine a screen operetta as you are likely to come upon anywhere.
Crime Without Passion
SOME TIME AGO Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur announced that they would make their own pictures, at half the cost that Hollywood regards as a minimum. So they went to work and ‘‘Crime Without Passion” is the first result of their collaboration. As a production, this elegant, precise and savage little picture isn’t to be distinguished from Hollywood’s very highest-priced models, while as a story it is infinitely superior to most of them.
It is the story of a criminal lawyer whose passion is beautiful women, and whose fancy is (in his own words) to tear them apart and see why they tick. This naturally leads to trouble. Presently the hero is involved in a murder, and from that point on we see him using all his brilliant legal wits to disentangle himself from his predicament.
The title is misleading; there is lots and lots of passion, especially in Mr. Raine’s performance as Lee Gentry, the lawyer. The story itself, however, is clockwork drama, worked out with cold ingenuity; so maybe it was just Messrs. Hecht and MacArthur who were without passion. It is all extraordinarily well done. Wherever the producers saved their money, it wasn’t on mountings, cast, direction or photography.
Elmer and Elsie
ELMER AND ELSIE” is an innocent little comedy about a piano mover (George Bancroft) and his bright little wife (Frances Fuller) who helps him get on in the world. Roscoe Kams is in it and is pretty funny, and some of the scenes and situations are fairly amusing, but the whole thing didn’t quite deserve to run into feature length.
THE SIGN POST
Cleopatra—Cecil de Mille production, in which Mr. de Mille works up most of the facts about Cleopatra with some fancies of his own. With Claudette Colbert. For those of school age and over.
Dames—Another Warner Brothers screen musical show, on “The Gold Diggers” model. The Dames, like the Gold Diggers, are beautiful and lively. For those who still enjoy screen musicomedy.
The Cat’s Paw—Harold Lloyd in a rather sedate new comedy which has some bright moments, especially toward the end. A family picture.
Straight is the Way—Franchot Tone as an ex-convict, very smooth and gentlemanly in a rough, tough rôle. Not an outstanding picture.
Let’s Try Again—A long, long discussion between the screenmarried lovers (Clive Brook, Diana Wynyard) about why they don’t love each other any more. Most of the time it didn’t seem to matter.
Of Human Bondage—Excellent dramatization of Somerset Maugham’s fine novel. With Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, the iatter superlative as the terrible Mildred. Adults.
The World Moves On—With Madeleine Carroll, Franchot Tone. A long picture, derived from “Cavalcade,” “The House of Rothschild” and "Berkeley Square;” which proves that it takes more than a number of good influences to make a good film. Safe for everybody, but not greatly recommended.
Stamboul Quest—Espionage picture, with Myrna Loy as the beautiful menace to the Allied plans. Exciting and well told.
The Affairs of Cellini—You will probably remember the performance of Frank Morgan as the Duke of Florence long after the less amusing affairs of Cellini (Fredric March) are forgotten. Adult.
Murder on the Blackboard—Miss Withers (Edna May Oliver) who solved the Penguin Pool Murder, finds a corpse in the First Grade and puts two and two together on the blackboard. For everybody.
The Thin Man—Just about everything a good mystery comedy should be. With Myrna Loy and William Powell, both very gay and funny. For most of the family.
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back—Built on a story which just about everyone knows, this picture still contrives to be exciting and unexpected, thanks to Ronald Colman. A family picture.
Madame Du Barry—This might have been one of the better historical pictures if the central rôle had been played by almost anyone except Dolores del Rio. Miss del Rio is naughty and Mexican when she should be witty and French; but the picture is worth seeing for its fine settings and photography.
The Scarlet Empress—Joseph von Sternberg’s rather hobgoblin picture of the court of Catherine the Great; with Marlene Dietrich beautiful but passive as Catherine. The family may enjoy it.
Here Comes the Navy—With James Cagney, as a sailor lad with troubles on sea and shore. On the whole, it is the navy that gets the handsome treatment in this picture.
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