MY OLD DUTCH” is about as English a picture as costers with their buttons and donkeys, bank holiday crowds, char-à-bancs, stout hearts, the general strike and Gordon Harkness’s cockney accent can make it. It is a leisurely, pleasant, three-generation picture with a story that follows the general public events from 1900 onward, so seeing it through is a good deal like spending a quiet evening with a book by J. B. Priestley. Lots of cockney humor and cockney sentiment, as much of the war as you could see from the entrance to the tubes during an air raid, some quick flashes of the general strike, and a grand conflagration and rescue af the end just so you’ll know you’ve been at a movie.
It’s a very natural, unpretentious picture and really has something to say about the lives of humble people in these difficult times. But you will need to have a long free afternoon or evening ahead in order to watch Bert and his Lili (Michael Hogan and Betty Balfour) grow very quietly, happily and slowly old together.
COLLEGE RHYTHM” brings Joe Penner, radio star, to the screen, and Joe Penner works furiously, with a duck, at being funny. The duck, I thought, was a little bit funny. At least it was dignified, resigned and rather human.
The story is about two department stores with rival sales schemes and football teams. This naturally leads to a great deal of dancing, chorus work, and sentimental solos by Lanny Ross; with football practice, dance numbers and song recitals all over the place. It all seems a rather worried attempt to work up something fresh by rearranging familiar odds and ends in a new pattern. What I did like, however, was the parrot in the bird department who named his own price and then was outraged because he was going so dirt cheap. There is nearly always one bright spot in every musical comedy.
YOU’LL NEED a lot of time for “Caravan,” too. It moves along very slowly; in fact, there seemed to be times when the Caravan had rested permanently. Movies these days don’t seem to be the place lor impatient people. Anyway there’s a beautiful countess (Loretta Young), a rhapsodical gypsy violinist (Charles Boyer) a dashing officer (Phillip Holmes), a wicked uncle (C. Aubrey Smith) and a great deal of romantic Viennese music.
The countess marries a gypsy to save her estate from her uncle. Uncle is much mortified, as he had planned to have her marry his son, the handsome officer. The countess meets the officer and falls in love, which is all right, the marriage with the gypsy not having been—as the family priest tactfully puts it—consummated. In the end the countess has her officer, the uncle has his castle safe in the family, the gypsy has his violin and his lesson not to mix with the upper-classes. It’s a tuneful picture, with some pretty photography. But it takes time, takes time.
TN ITS NATURAL state, George Raft’s F face has a bland impassivity that suggests the Orient. But when the producers of “Limehouse Blues” decided to heighten this effect by pulling his eye comers upward into his hair, they succeeded in making him look less like an Oriental than a young man who had been unskilfully repaired after an accident. In this picture he is a wicked semiOriental who conducts a smuggling business under cover of a Chinese night club. When people annoy him he invites them to his flat, where, amidst the Buddhas, jade and expensive chinoiserie, they are quickly murdered and their corpses propped in the side alley, to the mortification of the police.
He falls in love with an English girl, his “Little White Flower,” to the rage and humiliation of Anna May Wong (Little Yellow Flower). In the end Miss Wong betrays him to the police. You probably know the story. It’s really a tale for Warner Oland, who can get off flowery Oriental speeches without embarrassment. George Raft seemed very unhappy in the rôle. It’s
time he was returned to his strictly American underworld, where he can give a natural and effective account of himself.
A Lost Lady
THE HEROINE of “A Lost Lady” (Barbara Stanwyck) loses her lover on her marriage eve—he is shot by another lost lady’s indignant husband. This breaks her heart, and she goes off to the Rockies, where she complicates matters still further by breaking her leg. She is rescued by a middleaged millionaire (Frank Morgan) whom she marries. Then she falls in love with an aviator (Ricardo Cortez). When the husband discovers this he has a stroke and takes to his bed in his private suite upstairs, while Miss Stanwyck takes to drinking in the dining suite below. The aviator flies away, the wife decided to devote herself to her husband.
The story is from Willa Cather’s novel— that is, about one half of one per cent—the title and the tippling scene—are from the novel, and the rest is pure celluloid. It seems a pity to waste a fine actor like Frank Morgan on such a picture. But feeling the way I do about Miss Stanwyck, it didn’t seem below her talents.
It’s a Gift
SOMETIMES in these difficult days, with the movies going apparently from bad to worse, it seems as though the only really bright spot left is W. C. Fields. It is true Mr. Fields repeats himself a great deal in his new picture “It’s a Gift,” but, even so, W. C. Fields repeating himself is usually a lot fresher than an ordinary comedian thinking up something suddenly for the first time.
As usual, he has an awful, nagging family and doesn’t pay any attention to them; just lets their rages and reproaches rattle harmlessly about his head and goes on thinking grandly about his orange farm. And if the Barbara Stanwycks would only treat their own emotions as sensibly, the movie theatres would be much happier places in which to pass the time. To this reviewer at any rate, W. C. Fields’s calm obliviousness was a great relief after Miss Stanwyck’s angry dramatics.
THE SIGN POST
Little Friend—A sad little picture about a small girl’s difficulties with her quarrelling parents. With little Nova Pilbeam, latest child Duse of the screen. Beautifully acted, it will probably make you cry. An adult picture.
The Gay Divorcee—Musical comedy that runs well into two hours. Though it’s longer than it should be, it seems shorter than it actually is, thanks to Fred Astaire.
The Merry Widow—Everybody’s old favorite brought strictly up to date by Ernst Lubitsch, and very brightly acted, danced and sung by Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald. A family film.
The Fire Bird—Murder in a Viennese apartment house; or how one tenant played the phonograph once too often. With Lionel Atwill, Verree Teasdale, Ricardo Cortez. Adults.
St. Louis Kid—James Cagney as a truck driver who unexpectedly joins in a milk war. Not one of the best Cagney pictures.
My Song For You—Jan Kiepura’s latest picture. Fairly interesting, though Mr. Kiepura seems to force both his acting and his head tones a little too far.
Outcast Lady—Iris March, of “The Green Hat,” back again with all her troubles—which won’t do much to take your mind off your own. With Constance Bennett. Adults.
Babbitt — Screen dramatization of Sinclair Lewis’s story about the American businessman, with his troubles, feminine and financial. Not quite what Mr. Lewis intended, but occasionally amusing.
Mrs. Wiggs of The Cabbage Patch—This is the play our fathers and especially our mothers used to laugh at twenty-five years ago. It doesn’t seem so funny now, though W. C. Fields helps to brighten it some. A family picture.
Power—Impressive British picture, dramatizing Feuchtwanger’s novel, “Jew Suss.” With a spare and bitter performance by Conrad Veidt as the conniving Suss. Adults.
We Live Again—Screen version of Tolstoy’s “Resurrection.” Rouben Mamoulian’s direction, and Anna Sten’s acting, especially in the latter half, make this a worth-while picture. Adults.
The White Parade—Daily routine in a big hospital, with some hints on bed-making and tray • setting by beautiful Loretta Young. There’s a love story, but it doesn’t amount to much. For those interested in the nursing profession.
What Every Woman Knows—Barrie’s most popular play done with a maximum of care, fidelity and Scotch accent. With Helen Hayes very fine as the wise and wistful Maggie. Children will hardly be interested.
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