Forget Parnell Go And See Ga le
Sex-Appeal Historical Drama From IRIS CONLAY, Catholic Herald Film Critic Charles Stewart Parnell might have been born just in order to provide the film world with the perfect " he loved his country, but he loved a woman more " theme. Naturally the opportunity was so golden that no box office eye could lose it and so the play, lately produced at the Gate Theatre and subsequently transfered to the New, provided a slender basis on which to build up a big sex appeal film drama which might just as well have been called Gable as Parnell.
It is of Clark Gable (wide-ears) that you cannot help thinking while you watch the statesman's career. To remember Parnell is mental effort beyond endurance. From the moment right at the start of things when he waves goodbye to America with that schoolboy grin on his sidewhiskered face, you know jolly well that nothing — absolutely nothing, will ever convince you that Mr. Clark Gable can deceive you for a single instance into believing that he is Charles Stewart Parnell.
Authenticity not Everything
Everything else in the film (Empire) conspires with all the intensity that M.G.M. can put into it to make the production authentic.
I was told how endless trouble was taken by conducting a correspondence with the Clerk of the House of Commons to determine such matters as how Speakers Brand and Peel called on Mr. Gladstone (a) when he was Prime Minister, and (b) when he was Leader of the Opposition; and whether they called upon " Mr. Parnell " directly, or " the Honourable Member for Cork."
Then, of course, there is this absurd question of beards. Every newspaper has rung with the argument whether Parnell wore a beard or no beard in the early part of his career. Some people have suggested that Clark was afraid of his sex-appeal being diminished by the presence of a frothy black undergrowth and so dispensed with historical truth in favour of artistic effect.
But M.G.M. have assured us otherwise. Clark, they say, was positively anxious to try his luck with a beard but it was history that prevented him. During the years 1880-85, wherein the bulk of the film's action takes place, Mr. Parnell wore no beard but only a moustache and sidehoards of the type Clark affects.
He might have gone bushy at the end, it is true, but the producers were afraid that his appearance would be so changed that we should not recognise him.
Not that there is ever the least chance of mistaking Mr. Gable in this film, all the romance scenes are handled in the unique Gable fashion and run along Hollywood's prescribed lines, but,the political sequences ring untrue Gable as well as untrue Parnell.
Myrna Loy as Katie O'Shea is as unhappily placed as Clark Gable. There is no " period " sense in her playing and although she flutters attractively and yet has a firm will, her character still has little problems are in it to suggest the definite lines of Mrs. O'Shea.
My advice is—forget the Parnell and go to see Gable—there's a big chance then that you will enjoy yourself.
Two of the flimsiest musicals J have ever seen complete this week's offerings. One promised big things by suggesting that all the tunes therein were the work of Irving Berlin. But even Berlin's name will not save On the Avenue from being an also ran. It has its moments, however, and they are not necessarily musical ones. The biggest of all is the caricature of the poor little rich girl at a homely little dinner with papa whose place at table is so far off that she can only be in communication with him by telephone. There is fun, too, with an Italian snack-bar tender. Are the Italian restauranteurs the greatest humorists in the world?
Of the rest of the show, discreet silence does least harm. Not even Dick Powell and Madeleine Carroll and Irving Berlin and all the king's horses and all the king's men could put On Mr Avenue together again.
Why Domino ?
The Lilac Domino provided one insoluble mystery for me. Why did the curtain which -provided June Knight with a fancy dress disguise for that interminable masked ball get itself known as the lilac domino? Granted its colour may as well have been lilac as anything else, but dominoes have plainly marked spots upon them arranged symetrically. 1 saw no spots.
This is quibbling. The film will not stand or fall by such absurdities, and there is life and jollity and sentimental music to commend it, as well as humour in Athene Seyler and romance in Michael Bartlett, for which it will be long remembered when forgotten.