Raffles (United Artists) (1930)

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RONALD COLMAN in “RAFFLES” Reviews and Advance Stories RONALD COLMAN IN A SCENE FROM “RAFFLES" 7— One Col. Scene (Mat 05c; Cut 30c) Colman Goes Back to Brunettes After Six Years RONALD COLMAN, ^ of "RAFFLES" 1—Two Col. Colman Star Head (Mat 10c; Cut 50c) Colman Makes Fascinating "Raffles’’ in Highly Entertaining Talker of That Name (REVIEW) Ronald Colman as that most fa¬ mous of all gentleman crooks, “Raffles," cavorts at his adventur¬ ous best in a stirring photoplay now on view at the.... theatre. Samuel Goldwyn presents this United Artists picture as a successor to “Bulldog Drummond,” in which the famous English star perpetuates his alle¬ giance to detective thrillers. “Raffles” is Colman’s third suc¬ cessive criminal talking film. The first, “Bulldog Drummond,” re¬ vealed Colman in pursuit of crim¬ inals. The second, “Condemned!” showed him a convict, held in the tropic fastness of Devil’s Island. “Raffles,” the third, shows him as an amateur criminal, desperately trying to elude the law. Kay Francis, she of the dark eyes and the glossy black hair and the piquantly upturned nose, is Col¬ man’s leading lady in the picture. Which, incidentally, will show Col¬ man making love to a brunette for the first time in many years, six to be exact. Blondes there have been -Ann Harding, Joan Bennett, Vil- ma Banky, Lily Damita, Lillian Gish and Constance Talmadge, but not a brunette until Producer Goldwyn picked Miss Francis. David Torrence, who was the doughty banker of “Disraeli,” has the role of Inspector McKenzie of Scotland Yard. The veteran Fred¬ erick Kerr is the Lord Melrose of the piece, while Alison Skipworth, who has an equal number of the spoken stage’s service stripes, is his screen spouse. Frances Dade and Bramwell Flet¬ cher, both new to pictures, make their first bow in “Raffles.” Her success in the Colman picture has already brought Miss Dade parts in “He Knew Women” with Lowell Sherman and another with Cyril Maude in “Grumpy.” Bramwell Fletcher has been equally success¬ ful. The story of Raffles’ adventures, told and retold for the last twenty- five years on the stage, in fiction and on the screen, has become so well known that it has made the name of the hero a word in everyday language. Samuel Gold¬ wyn assigned Sidney Howard to the task of modernizing these legends, to thrill this generation as it did the last. The story, briefly, is that of the society burglar, gentleman born and bred, who robs for adventure, not for profit. Having found the girl of his heart, he commits one last robbery, that of a diamond bracelet, and then swears to follow an upright and honest life. Grave complications develop when his best friend becomes involved in a bad check charge. To Raffles is pre¬ sented the task of making good the bad check. One last robbery the only solution. If he fails, Raffles knows that he will forever lose his freedom, his happiness, the girl he loves—everything. But his best friend is helpless. Raffles plunges in-his last crime. On the thrilling story of that farewell burglary, Raffles takes through the midnight excitement of the robbery, the chase and the cap¬ ture, the mystery of the fabulous Melrose necklace, a desperate thief intent upon revenge-this an even greater adventure. Then there is the gay social swirl—the silver and crystal finery of a dinner in the great hall of the Melrose castle, the jewelled, gorgeously gowned throng at the Embassy Club, London, and, its reflection of England, a big league cricket match, seen on the screen for the first time. The technical staff that has been associated with Samuel Goldwyn’; recent pictures, “Condemned!” and “Bulldog Drummond” is again re¬ sponsible for the visual brilliancy of his newest picture. William Cam¬ eron Menzies and Park French col¬ laborated in the designment. Gregg Toland and George Barnes are re- iponsible for the photography. 5000 Watch Filming of “Raffles” Cricket Game Five thousand people in Holly¬ wood journeyed out to the Midwick Country Club near Hollywood re¬ cently to watch the filming of the Cricket sequence in Ronald Col¬ man’s “Raffles,” which comes to the . theatre, on . Twenty-four of the best cricketers in the world were recruited from the Hollywood English colony and the game was the first ever played on the West Coast. This episode furnishes one of the highlights for Mr. Colman’s greatest adventure film based on the exploits of one of England’s greatest crime geniuses. In sup¬ port of the star appears a well- known cast including Kay Francis, and David Torrence. 'Raffles” Portrayer Respected by Crooks To the legend and fame of ‘Raffles" there is an intimate asso¬ ciation in the careers of many great actors. In the early years of this century, the late Kyrle Bellew daz¬ zled the matinee ladies into fits of ecstasy as the suave gentlemen genius of crime. Ronald Colman’s new enactment of the famous role, to be seen when Samuel Goldwyn’s production of “Raffles” comes to the.theatre, re¬ vives many of the anecdotes that were told when the character was introduced to New York and Lon¬ don. Raffles,” the play, came to New York on the tail end of a series of daring jewel robberies. Almost ov¬ ernight, the name of Hornung’s light-fingered burglar was grafted into the language as a synonym for gentleman crook. It appeared reg¬ ularly in the headlines. It was a fine thing for the box office, for the play took, after several weeks of indecision, and became an outstand- g success. But it was less fortu¬ nate for the late Kyrle Bellew, who played the name part. He remained the matinee idol of the day, or perhaps became an even greater one, if that were possible. But people took him seriously. They believed in him as a very skillful and light-fingered gentleman. He still liked by New York’s “four hundred"; he still visited the first families. One week-end, he was a house guest at a great Long Island mansion. A restless movement out¬ side his door kept him from sleep¬ ing. He opened it to see the but¬ ler, d-ligently standing guard The :planation was obvious: as long as he knew where this stage Raffles was, the host would have no con cern about the family jewelry and silver. Cosmo Kyrle Bellew, son of the late star, appeared with Colman in “The Magic Flame.” Young Bellew recalls vividly of his father telling of the many unusual predicaments that the part created for him. For nstance, crooks and the underworld took the play seriously, too. Many of them wormed their way to his dressing room or to the hotel, try- ng to interest the great stage crook n nefarious burglaries and smug- glery. Frequently, Mr. Bellew re¬ ceived a dozen tips a day. None would ever accept his word for it that off stage and out of the theatre, the great actor wasn’t at all inter¬ ested in burglary. Ronald Colman star of "Raffles” 2a—One Col. Colman Star Head (Mat 05c; Cut 30c) In England, the play was intro¬ duced a year or more later. For some months in advance, the rumor was general that Lawrence D’Orsay was to play the Kyrle Bellew part. In America, he had originated the English swell’’ type-in "So This Is London,” “Trelawney of the Welles” and other successes. He was the logical choice for the role. Sir Gerald DuMaurier finally re¬ ceived the assignment to the amaze¬ ment of everyone. As in America, the play did not become popular immediately. When it did, though, Sir Gerald became as insolubly iden¬ tified with Raffles in England as Kyrle Bellew was in America. Sir Gerald says that “Raffles” was the late King Edward's favorite play. Soon after the war started, DuMaurier was called to the colors. He closed his current revival that had run to 179 performances at Wyndham’s Theatre. The original engagement was 351. He recall; A dark haired lady has been cast opposite Ronald Colman for the first time in six years. The picture which this variation takes place the star’s third and latest talking film-play, “Raffles,” the romantic melodrama which comes to the .theatre on. The lucky lady is Kay Francis. She is the only brunette to play oppo¬ site the English favorite since he made his first Hollywood picture, ‘Tarnish’’ in which May McAvoy was the feminine lead. Since then the career of Ronald Colman can almost be told in terms f leading ladies. “The White Sis- er” and “Romola” notwithstand¬ ing, Colman was more of a leading man to May McAvoy in "Tarnish” than she was leading lady to him. A similar statement might have been made later when he played with Constance Talmadge in “Her Sister From Paris.” Miss Talmadge was a great star; Colman was still merely a promising beginner. Then Colman’s mentor, Samuel Goldwyn, united him for the hrst time on the screen with the newly arrived Hungarian lady, Vilma Banky. “The Dark Angel” was completed in October, 1925. It was the beginning of a screen duet that became one of the traditions of motion pictures. Her hair, her radiant face, so sensitive and reflec¬ tive, and the rich, golden loveliness of her hair opposite Colman’s dark¬ eyed Latin features proved an irre¬ sistible magnet to picture fans all over the world. Having proven so tremendously effective in “The Dark Angel,” he continued with Miss Banky through “The Winning of Barbara Worth,” ‘The Night of Love," and “The Magic Flame.” Then, with “Two Lovers,” a picturization of the Bar¬ oness Orczy’s novel, “Leatherface," Goldwyn announced that Colman and Banky had played their last pic¬ ture together, and that henceforth, words to that effect,—they would be starred separately. A new leading lady had to be found for Colman. From the music halls of Paris, Goldwyn brought Lily Damita. Her tiger-lily brilliance lighted only one of Colman’s pictures, "The Rescue.” She was loaned to G-M-G. for “The Bridge of San Luis Rey" and later to Fox for “The Cock-Eyed World.” World.” Talking pictures had come to further complicate the task of find¬ ing a partner for Colman in “Bull¬ dog Drummond.” Joan Bennett, fresh from a small speaking part in her father’s play, “Jarnegan,” was selected. Like Miss Damita and Miss Banky, it was her first screen part. The colossal success of ‘Drummond” not only re-establish¬ ed Colman in the new medium of talking pictures, but it made a first rate screen luminary of Miss Ben¬ nett. For the heavy dramatic intensity of “Condemned!” a tried and estab¬ lished actress had to be found. Ann Harding, a pre-eminent stage play¬ er, but still a recruit to talking pic¬ tures, was given the role of Madam Vidal, and made so conspicuous a hit of it that she is now starred Pathe pictures. All of these ladies have been blondes, varying in shade from the luminous straw-colored locks of Miss Harding to the reddish-gold tresses of Miss Damita. They be¬ came a legend for Colman. Goldwyn decided to end it. Kay Francis, whose fine perform¬ ance in “Street of Chance” contrib- ted largely to its success, was selected for “Raffles,” thus break¬ ing a six-year spell. What the fu¬ ture holds for Colman, he doesn’t even pretend to know. He has no preferences, he says. that during the first few days of the war, after Court had banned all public appearances for royalty, he noted in the imperial box a veiled lady. In the intermission, he was called to the Royal Box and presented to H. M. Queen Alexandra, who had evidently overlooked the court rules to see one of the last presentations of the famous play. Since the war, there have been few performances of “Raffles,” whether in England or America. Sir Gerald writes, “I have often been asked to revive Hornung’s play, but for many reasons, chiefly sentimental, I have declined.” (REVIEW) Out of the maze of romantic antiquity, “Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman” strides the screen again. And surely no “Raffles” has ever brought to the familiar role of the dashing thief such amazing likabil- ity as Ronald Colman portrays at the .theatre, where Samuel Goldwyn s all-talking version of the internationally fa¬ mous melodrama opened yesterday. Colman undoubtedly makes the "cracksman” the most lovable role he has ever brought to the screen The character is a combination of “Drummond” with all that bold fighter's humor, but not his wise cracks, and the “Michel ’ of Con¬ demned!” but with refinement. The story also bears the marks of careful craftsmanship. It opens with Raffles as the clever crook invad ing a stylish London jeweler’s in search of a suitable braaelet for hi lady love. Thus located, the scene shifts abruptly to a London night¬ club where the crook proposes mat rimony and is accepted. Lady Gwen, portrayed by Kay Francis, is an in novation among Colman heroines, a gorgeous brunette and incidentally the first dark-haired leading ladj ever to play opposite that romantit hero. Inspired by her love, the Cracks man quits his life of crime and ex citement only to be inevitably brought back to it by the need o, a friend. He journeys to the coun¬ try home of Lord and Lady Melrose in search of the famous Melrose diamonds—and while there, shows his skill as the most famous crick¬ eter in all England. The cricket scenes are the first ever brought to the American screen, and are magnificently done. Colman makes the game so attrac¬ tive that undoubtedly many an American boy will seek to intro¬ duce the game among his friends as a substitute for baseball. From the Melrose dinner, pic¬ tured with all the beauty and sub¬ tlety that can characterize high so¬ ciety life, Raffles turns to the busi¬ ness at hand. From that point the action grows faster and faster with the crook pitting his wits against that clever Scotch detective. Inspec¬ tor McKenzie of Scotland Yard. The role is marvelously played by David Torrence. Alison Skipworth, of the New York stage, likewise contributes a notable performance as Lady Mel- jrose, while Fred Kerr as Lord Mel¬ rose is equally commendable. The photography by George Barnes and Gregg Toland is near perfection. These two cameramen have filmed every Colman produc¬ tion since the days of “The Dark Angel,” and their skill seems con¬ stantly more effective. Altogether, “Raffles” is a produc¬ tion such as comes to our screens but rarely—perhaps once or twice in a season. It is likewise a produc¬ tion which every member of the family will enjoy. Don’t miss it. Colman Is Delightful in Romantic Melodrama