THERE IS THIS about the early Russian revolution: The people in it were so busy attacking and counter-attacking that nobody took time to set down a discriminating account of what was actually taking place, so that the moving-picture people have it pretty much their own way. “British Agent,” to be sure, is based on the Bruce Lockhart story, but it supplies most of the detail itself. The picture isn’t always very sensible, but it is consistently exciting. However, revolutions themselves are rarely sensible and almost uniformly exciting, so you won’t have much difficulty in believing that Stephen Locke (I^eslie Howard) attempted single-handed to keep Russia in the war by intriguing with the counter-revolutionaries against the Soviet, and that he was badly hampered in this by the fact that he was in love with Elena (Kay Francis), handsome secretary to Comrade Lenin ; also that Elena, while returning his love, went right on forwarding his political confidences to the Ogpu.
In revolutions people behave that way; politics first, love anywhere you can work it in. Leslie Howard plays his British Agent rôle with his usual tact. Intense but imperturbable and always elegant, he moves about among the dust covers of the deserted Embassy; and there Miss Francis visits him, wearing a belted raincoat and a simple beret, and looking as though they had been designed for her by Schiaparelli at least—which they probably were. “British Agent” is so agreeable and exciting to watch that the historical inventions won’t worry you.
Six Day Hike Rider
TT SEEMS that six-day bicycle racing, instead of being ordinary bicycle racing only more monotonous, is really similar to championship wrestling only more ferocious. At least that is the impression one gets from Joe E. Brown’s new picture, “Six Day Bike R ider.” It’s fairly amusing, but six days are six days and a long time to wait for a climax, even when they are cut down to an hour and a half on the screen. Besides, I don’t find Joe E. Brown very funny except for the fantastic accident of his face. People who do, however, will like his newest film. It's the usual Joe E. Brown formula.
The Barretts of Wimpole Street
'VT'OU MAY LIKE “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” because it presents Norma Shearer, or because it has one of those richly Victorian backgrounds we all like so much at present, or because of Charles Laughton’s overwhelming I>erformance as Elizabeth Barrett’s “pa-pa,” or simply because it helps to work off the vast popular grudge against Victorian papas in general. Actually, “The Barretts” owes most of its success to the fact that it has a rich part in it for everyone—-even “Flush,” the dog, has a rôle which is an animal act in itself. There are no halftones in this portrait of a Victorian family. Everyone in it is completely vicious, angelic, comic, splendid or nitwitted.
As you probably know, it is the story of the most romantic elopement of history—that of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. It is beautifully worked out by everybody. Charles Laughton's “Edward Barrett” is unforgettably malignant, and Norma Shearer’s “Elizabeth” is fragile, sensitive and deeply moving. And while members of the Browning Society may look down their noses at Fredric
March's portrait of their genius, the rest of us will lie quite satisfied with his fine looks, romantic ardors, and ease and pleasure in his rôle.
I THINK you are supposed to lie very sorry for Joan Crawford in “Chained,” because she is engaged to a rich shipping magnate (Otto Kruger) while in love with a rich cattle-rancher (Clark Gable). Only when you see the compensations life brings her in the way of tropical cruises, handsome admirers, Adirondack vacations and silver-fox capelets, you can’t really pity her as you are intended to. As usual, she is a splendid heroine, much too generous for her own good, and much too good for the objects of her generosity—the shipping magnate and the rancher.
There are a lot of complications, but they all straighten out in the end. There is one scene which shows Miss Crawford and Mr. Gable sitting down with exclamations of joy to a large ranch dinner. The next scene shows the dinner completely demolished and Mr. Gable and Miss Crawford leaning back loosening their belts.
Still, I should have liked to see Miss Crawford actually eat that meal ; because I read somewhere that under her contract she hadn’t had a solid meal in six years, and this seemed a much more real and poignant deprivation than her emotional frustrations in "Chained.”
HAPPINESS AHEAD” is all about a window-cleaning young man who loves an heiress. He doesn’t know she’s an heiress till one day he is cleaning windows on Park Avenue and there she is, the spoiled girl, wheedling two thousand dollars out of her rich father. Dick Powell is the window cleaner, and this time Warner Brothers let him do his singing without long elaborate interruptions from a chorus ensemble. It’s a great improvement.
Josephine Hutchinson is a newcomer to the screen; charming, but with a Theatre Guild manner which she will have to modify if she wants to be a really popular favorite. “Happiness Ahead” is gay and entertaining, and brightly directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
THE SIGN POST
Belli? of the Nineties.—Mae West's latest picture, cut to the bone by the censors. Nothing, however, has been done about Miss West. For all West admirers.
She Loves Me Not—College comedy, with Bing Crosby as a singing student and Miriam Hopkins as a night club dancer who gets into a Princeton dormitory. Complicated by love and prolonged by song, it is fairly amusing, though too long. Children will be bored.
Million Dollar Ransom—A Damon Runyon story of the snatch racket, rather more complicated than exciting. With Edward Arnold as a sort of regenerated AÍ Capone. Not highly recommended.
Hide-Out—The story of how a wicked city racketeer (Robert Montgomery) was converted by country innocence (Maureen O'Sullivan). A great deal brighter and better than it may sound. Recommended for everybody.
You Belong To Me—Lee Tracy is the hero of this picture, but most of the attention is directed to a morose little boy named David Holt. All those with a prejudice against child actors should take warning.
The Cat’s Paw—Harold Lloyd in a highly practical comedy about city politics. Sedate, but funny. A family picture.
Cleopatra—Most of the known facts about Cleopatra, and some others that Hollywood thought up. Mostly spectacle, but so was the life of Cleopatra. Claudette Colbert is Egypt’s queen and doesn’t take it too seriously.
The Count of Monte Cristo—The Dumas story very much as Dumas wrote it: which leaves nothing to complain about. With Robert Dor.at, Elissa Landi. A family film.
Dames—Not much story, but any number of beautiful girls photographed in fancy patterns. For musicomcdy addicts. With Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, etc.
One Night of Love—Opera with interludes of love. With Grace Moore, Metropolitan soprano, very fine in the leading rôle. Recommended.
Chu Chin Chow—Just about everything you could ask for by way of story, spectacle, music and acting, in a British-Gaumont film of the great operetta. But it runs into opera length. For everybody.
The Affairs of Cellini—Good, gentle Fredric March in one of those wicked rôles which fit him like a pair of new shoes. Frank Morgan’s performance, as the Duke of Florence, makes the picture worth seeing, however. Adults.
The World Moves On—A determinedly epic picture which deals, among other w'orld events, wdth the international cotton industry, the world war, the depression era and the reincarnation of Mr. Franchot Tone. Laborious and not recommended.
Judge Priest—Idyll of the deep South, w’ith Will Rogers as Judge Priest, who rules the town, making the good people happy and the bad people repentant. Mr. Rogers’s most endearing picture for some time.
Crime Without Passion—Some new angles, both photographic and narrative, on murder. A handsome picture, sharply handled, which intelligent adults will enjoy but keep their children away from.
Treasure Island—The Stevenson classic done in fine eighteenth century style. With Jackie Cooper, Wallace Beery. For everybody.
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