Inside facts of stage and screen (May 24, 1930)

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( PAGE FOUR INSIDE FACTS OF STAGE AND SCREEN SATURDAY, MAY 24, 1930 Picture Reviews ~ Previews " Shorts “THE DIVORCEE” M-G-M PICTURE (Reviewed May 16) If this is M-G-M’s first contribu- tion to the newly announced Hays Code of Ethics, one is left to won- der what the end will be. “Adul- tery,” declared Mr. Hays, “must not be presented in a sympathetic light.” Which this film straight- way does through its entire length. And forcefully, for Norma Shearer, playing the role of the wife who “squares accounts” with a philan- dering husband, handles hes role with an appeal and an acting ability that never for a moment fails to win sympathy in unstinted measure. Ursula Parrott’s novel, “Ex- Wife,” was declared anathema for screen presentation. So they just changed the title, advertised it only as from “a novel by Ursula Par- rott,” and went about the making of a very good picture. If the Haysitian ban had stood, the public would have lost some good enter- tainment. But the credit does not go to Miss Parrott. Rather to John Mee- han, who did the continuity for the picture; to Miss Shearer and the cast for their artistry, and to Rob- ert Z. Leonard for direction. The book’s kick was in the cleverness of the lines, the story being rather nil except for its spicy moments. But Meehan has made a good picture, not by adapting the book, but by throwing everything in it away ex- cept the names of the characters and a couple of situations. Which is another argument for the thesis that screen plays should be written by screen writers, and a mere tak- ing over of a book or a play for screen presentation is a poor pol- icy. For, with a few changes, M-G-M could have had this play without buying “Ex-Wife.” As it stands on the screen, it is Mee- han’s and not Ursula’s work. What the studio got for its money was the title it did not use. The work of Miss Shearer is the biggest single feature of “The Di- vorcee.” The plot ends very weak- ly, though morally. There are some good dramatic situations, but the direction of Leonard and the acting of Miss Shearer and her supporting cast are more to be hon- ored for this than the story. A tone of naturalness is kept through- out, and consequently the story moves along with a smooth and in- teresting flow. The . story opens with the en- gagement of the girl (Miss Shearer) to a newspaperman (Chester Mor- ris). There is a disappointed suitor (Conrad Nagel). In his despair Nagel drives recklessly in a car with a girl who is in love with him. The car is wrecked and the girl disfigured for life. As his duty, Nagel marries her, upon the same day upon which occurs the mar- riage of Miss Shearer and Morris. Things go smoothly in the Shear- er-Morris menage until an evening upon which the wife discovers that he has been unfaithful. As he de- clares that was nothing, _ she evens the score by being unfaithful with a friend of theirs (played by Rob- ert Montgomery). Morris demands a divorce, and after _ the divorce there are a whole series of jewel- giving men in the ex-wife’s life. Finally she meets Nagel again, and a romance is born. But the ex- wife sees her duty and his as re- maining faithful to his disfigured wife, and so that romance ends. There is the final moralistic sop of a reunion between Miss Shearer and her former husband. And this is the one point that rings hollow- ly. That and a minor point where- in Miss Shearer, dressed in paja- mas, makes a complete change to evening dress in the length of time it takes Chester Morris to walk across a room. EXHIBITORS’ VIEWPOINT: This is boxoffice, and has especial allure for the women. In fact it is just such a tonic as the jaded pub- lic appetite, feminine division, finds most stimulating. There are pub- licity angles galore on the domestic problem theme, not particularly new, of the justness of the single standard. And Shearer fans will ballyhoo building up in spots where this is not the strong draw. PRODUCERS’ VIEWPOINT: Direction of Robert Z. Leonard is very strong, and he continues to keep interest up to a high point throughout. He has carried the play through with a sure touch for the natural, which is the appealing. His rating is placeable among the best of the natural dramatic direc- tors. John Meehan,- as before remarked, did an excellent job with the adap- tation, rather deserving credit for a well-done original than for a screen translation. CASTING DIRECTORS’ VIEWPOINT: Norma Shearer reassumes her place of high popu- larity by her work in this picture, following the rather weak talkie ve- hicles she was given lately. She demonstrates beyond all question that, the material being there, she can put it across for full value, and takes rank among the best dra- matic actresses yet found by the talkies. The balance of the cast is uni- formly good, -but with none equal- ing work they have done in other pictures, due to lesser chances. Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel and Robert Montgomery are the three featured support players, and each turns in 100 per cent work, but without the demands of their roles giving them opportunity for outstanding performances. Even more so is this true of the balance of the. cast, which includes Florence Eldridge, Helen Millard, Robert Elliott, Mary Doran, Tyler Brooke, Zelda Sears, George Irving and Helen Johnson. Frederick. ‘LADY OF SCANDAL’ M-G-M PICTURE (Reviewed at Paramount Theatre) This play ran along with the usual smoothness which M-G-M injects into its sophisticated pro- ductions, and for the type of role assigned her, none is brought to mind who could have played the central part better than did Ruth Chatterton. But the acting high- light of the film goes to Basil Rathbone, who, in one short scene at a telephone, indubitably estab- lished his right to be rated a man of tremendous histrionic power. It is doubtful if in an equal length of footage, any smoother running of emotional gamut has been done, with less apparent effort, than that offered herein by Rathbone. “Lady of Scandal,” which inci- dentally is a misnomer, there be- ing no scandal in the whole story, is from the Frederick Lonsdale stage play, “The High Road.” Everything is polite, emotions are held within the demands of eti- quette, there is much ceremonious ado over nothing, and in certain play-educated spots it doubtlessly will be declared great. But from a movie standpoint, one frequent- ly wishes the even tenor would be cracked up by some fast action, and that the comedy was not of so uniformly an accepted stage pattern. In other words, more movie and less play would have been welcome. The plot is an innocuous and a by no means new entanglement, and it is the even, forward-moving and sympathetic direction of Syd- ney Franklin, plus an almost uni- form excellence of acting that makes the picture worthwhile. The story is laid in a stiff, con- vention-bound household of the British nobility. Into this circle comes consternation with the news that its son is to wed an actress. He brings the actress down, and how she wins over the family to her friendship is the opening theme. But half way along the story course, a new element en- ters. This time the tangle is that she has fallen in love with another member of the family, and he with her. Her fiance, sensing the situ- ation, withdraws from the field, but the other man has been for long entangled with a woman whose husband is a cripple. Just as he has decided to definitely duty, and sends him back to the woman. Thus the scorned show woman turns out to be the noblest of the lot, and it is on this note that the picture ends. EXHIBITORS’ VIEWPOINT: This is a well done sophisticated picture, and houses which can play this type of story to good returns, should do neatly with it, consider- ing the name draw of Ruth Chat- terton and the favorable word-of- mouth which it will get from those who like it. PRODUCERS’ VIEWPOINT: Sydney Franklin directed so ably as to prove himself among the most capable in this type of work. The adaptation was well done in the dramttic department of it, but the comedy was frequently forced and often laboriously tedious. CASTING DIRECTORS’ VIEWPOINT: Ruth Chatterton added to her record another of the type of roles to which the pictures have consigned her. She did this one with her usual abil- ity. Basil Rathbone, in addition to his one cum laude telephone scene, held up throughout to a high standard of competence, prov- ing a most decided asset to the film. Frederick Kerr as a grumpy old nobleman, stood out in his earlier scenes, but a drunk scene by him, and some following broad comedy, didn’t measure up to what it might have. But, all in all, very god. Nance O’Neil, as his wife, lost no opportunity of her role. Ralph Forbes played the first fiance in a straightaway leading fashion, with no discernible fault. McKenzie Ward lent his usual line of sap comedy, while Effie Ellsler made a most sympathetic type for a beloved aunt. Completing the cast satisfactor- ily were Herbert Burnstone, Cyril Chadwick, Robert Bolder, Moon Carroll and Edgar Norton. Frederick. “LOVIN’ THE LADIES” RADIO PICTURE (Reviewed at RKO Theatre) A polite comedy that started out under control but finally went farce. But it was good entertainment and scored a lot of heavy laughter in its broad moments. The picture is done from the original play “I Love You,” by William Le Baron, Radio chief, and is excellent film material, being played on home grounds, takes a young and ambitious mechanic into social realms, has plenty of comedy and iS charged heavily with roman- tic interest. The story stars Richard Dix as an electrical repair man, labor lead- er and orator, called to fix some balky house lights in the home of Allen Kearns, wealthy scion of the four hundred. An argument has been going on in which Kearns has taken the position that any two people could be made to fall in love if they were thrown together in the right environment. Selmer Jack- son, another denizen of society, has opposed him and the result is a $5000 wager, with Jackson’s the privilege of picking the principals of the experiment. Jackson chooses Dix, and for the other principal picks Renee Mac- ready, bored social spinster, the lat- ter kept in ignorance of the plan and the former bought with an of- fer of $2500, against his principles, but . Complications are intro- duced by having Dix fall in love with Lois Wilson, one of the so- ciety group, and by having Betty revealed as being enamored of the butler, Anthony Bushell, Oxford graduate “roughing it” in America. The bet fizzles in a double romance. There is a theatrical absurdity in the thought of any Oxford grad of independent means butling for an American family, but how else have him attractive to the ennuid Betty? But the ranks of honest American workmen can find inspiration in the ability of representative Dix to not only wear clothes like a Lord Ches- terfield, but to wear an air of most fashionable boredom in the very fastnesses of American aristocracy. Of such things is democracy made. EXHIBITORS’ VIEWPOINT: This_ is generally good program booking, with a safe cast, safe story and plenty of comedy. The horny- handed son of toil has not crashed society in pictures so much of late and the fans ought to like it. Dix is careful of his camera angles and will draw heavily from his follow- ing among the more mature ladies, and Rita La Roy is there in an un- necessary-to-the-plot vampish role to furnish heart appeal for the Romeos. All classes will feel they have had their money’s worth of entertainment, with the possible ex- ception of the younger kiddies. PRODUCERS’ VIEWPOINT: Plenty of flaws, which slip by in the main. Their elimination, how- ever, would have made it a better picture. Dix was a little too smooth in his social role, considering his sup- posed background. It is one thing to be a well-read mechanic, and an- other to be a self-possessed dille- tante, especially in a strange world. And a settee scene in the “environ- ment” episode could have been han- dled with better taste, preserving the polite flavor of the previous scenes, putting the situation over just as effectively and losing no ele- ments of comedy. „ It is a matter for grateful relief that a society house party was not made the excuse for working in a girl show and a couple of theme songs. Just imagine a situation calling for romantic environment and dreamy music having its back- ground furnished by a lone fiddle! What do you make of that, Mister Watson? (It means, Sherlock, that the Dawn Is Caming.) Melville Brown directed. CASTING DIRECTORS’ VIEWPOINT: Although safely cast with veteran principals, there remains plenty of room for argu- ment. The romantic leads are sup- posed to be young and impression- able, falling in love at sight, almost, and the industry knows how long these exceedingly capable veterans have been casting their shadows on the silver screen. The youthful spirit does not glow in their faces, nor does love suffuse them when they gaze tenderly at each other. This, however, takes nothing from the fine, trouping, technical ability of Dix and Miss Wilson. Allen Kearns carries himself very well as the motivator of the plot and turns in a smooth piece of work, ably seconded by Renee Mac- ready as the bored lady. Rita La Roy furnished a moment of burn- ing passion by way of color and was over-directed into farce. The work of Virginia Sale as a maid, Selmer Jackson as a social friend, Anthony Bushell as butler, and Henry Armetta as fiddler, was of a good, high standard character, and furnished excellent support. Y e at es.' “YOUNG MAN OF MANHATTAN” PARAMOUNT PICTURE (Reviewed May 15) This picture will prove popular as program entertainment with the public, considering the lack of fa- vorites’ names in the cast, but it will be even more popular with the critics. The story is right in the backyard of the latter, having to do with a girl writer and a boy writer who get married and thence proceed to crash the big writing money. Which is the Cinderella story of newspaper folk, critics in- cluded. Otherwise the picture is mainly notable for bringing a most able and personable leading man to at- tention, to-wit: Norman Foster, who handles his role with a lack of stage consciousness and an attract- iveness that is highly pleasing and somewhat different. Other capable people in the cast include Claudette Colbert and Charles Ruggles, here- tofore known, and Ginger Rogers, who plays her part well but does not herein prove a sensation. The picture is adapted from the Satevepost _ story of Katherine Brush, and is no unusual one. In fact, most writers at some time in their lives do one like it (as filmed) or collect notes with that purpose. The idea of jazz-mad youth is lost in the translation, and it emerges just another story of newspaper people. The theme of the picture is based on the fact that Miss Colbert and Foster get married, and though do- mestically loving, are rivals in writ- ing a rivalry which he feels be- cause she is making good money and he is not. But all his resolu- tions to do better fade out in lazi- ness and dissipation, until at length there is a split-up. He drifts on until he becomes blinded by boot- leg booze, whereupon he sits down, writes half a novel in ten days and gets a $1000 advance royalty check. Quite remarkable. There is a lesser motif in the fact that a wealthy man loves her, and there is danger of her becoming his wife after a divorce from the failure-hubby. But of course this does' not materialize, nor is it conceivable that anyone in the audience ever is seriously con- cerned that it will happen. EXHIBITORS’ VIEWPOINT: This is good average entertainment, and draw will depend largely upon how it is sold with no particular movie names to get ’em coming. Prognostication is that it will go strong in some houses and weak in others. Better look it over. PRODUCERS’ VIEWPOINT: Monta Bell directed surely and with a steady forward march of story and interest. It is plain to be seen that his treatment was sympa- thetic,' and this phase makes many scenes far above average, with the entire picture rating above the mid- dle mark. Robert Fresnell gets credit for the good adaptation. CASTING DIRECTORS’ VIEWPOINT: Norman Foster is a natural for the talkies, now that the merely good-looking leading men are in the discard and talent as well as attractiveness is neces- sary. He is thoroughly convincing, and with excellent screen presence. Claudette Colbert again proves up as a feminine lead of unusual merit, though bigger dramatic roles have permitted her higher honors in the past pictures she has been in. But her casting for the current role was exactly right and she handled it just that way. Charles Ruggles appears again in his only too familiar sloppy re- porter characterization, and does it as per usual, which is better than anyone else on the screen has yet achieved. Ginger Rogers is another baby- talk girl, being the usual type in this classification. Her work is up to all demands. Completing the cast are Leslie Austin, H. Dudley Hawley and the Four Aalubu Sisters. Frederick. ‘THE CUCKOOS’ RADIO PICTURE (Reviewed at RKO Theatre) This was made for nonsense belly laughs only, and it brings them in. Bert Wheeler and Rob- ert Woolsey, teaming again after their hit in RKO’s “Rio Rita,” clown through for one of the low comedy hits of the season, and it will take a mighty sour-minded person not to render this produc- tion the tribute of long and loud laughter. At the present state of talkie development, this one looks like just the stuff the public, by and . large, wants; having action, color of setting and comedy. No big smash, but mighty good box- office entertainment where word- of-mouth means business, and laughs are the big draw. “The Cuckoos” is taken from the New York stage play, “The Ramblers,” by Guy Bolton, Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar. The mu- sic is tuneful and well rendered, with a lingering melody in “I Love You So,” and the remainder not particularly catchy stuff but quite adequate. The plot is the usual light mu- sical play material. It concerns two American fortune tellers (played by Wheeler and Wool- sey), who wander into Mexico. A band of gypsies, acting under or- (Continued on Page 9) FOR RENT STUDIO RESIDENCE (FURNISHED) 6 Rooms and Sleeping Porch (8x20); Double Garage; Near Motion Picture Studios. OWNER GOING EAST 132 No. Wilton Place find their favorite in the very height of her power. Of course it is so- phisticated, and the b. o. will need break with her, word comes of her husband’s death. The little actress shows him the path of Voice Culture, Especially For Talkies and Radio MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE JOSEPH DISKAY HUNGARIAN TENOR Granada Studios 47, 672 So. Lafayette Park Place At Wilshire and Hoover DUnkirk 1941 or HOllywood 6173 Phone HEmpstead 0376