NEW FILMS " Desire "
The Plaza Ernst Lubitsch, the Puck amongst producers, has proved himself another Pommer in his ability to reveal the Dietrich charm in cinema.
Too many years ago Pommer, in "The Blue Angel," disclosed the devil in the Dietrich, since which time she has languished a lay figure among Sternberg's monstrosities. We were gradually being forced to think that "The Blue Angel" was a happy mistake and that Dietrich was beautiful but dumb. "Desire," seemingly her last picture for Paramount, recaptures what was lost. It is not only her best Hollywood picture, it is brilliantly good.
A CROOK COMEDY
It is a crook comedy, dissolving rather disappointingly into romance, with Marlene a thief in the cleverest jewel robbery ever screened. She escapes from Paris with
BRITISH "KING OF THE DAMNED." A. 50 mins. G-B's contribution to the cruelty quota. Conrad Veidt on Devil's Island.
" FATHER O'FLYNN." U. 82 mins. Simple, sincere and sentimental, with songs sacred and syncopated.
" NO MONKEY BUSINESS." U. 78 mins. A good cast, with a nonsensical plot about a man in ape's clothing.
AMERICAN "HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE." A. 79 mins. Carole Lombard and Fred McMurray dig for gold and find romance. Light and laughable.
" LAST DAYS OF POMPEII." A. 98 mins. Spectacular, full of incident. It has a moral, but no Bulwer Lytton beyond the title.
" I LIVE MY LIFE." U. 96 mins. American "snobocratic" comedy, with Joan Crawford. Slick but shallow.
" SHIPMATES FOR EVER." U.
111 mins. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler boost the American navy; or do they?
" DANGER AHEAD." U. 59 min. A meek-mannered melodrama about fifty " grand."
" THE GIRL FRIEND." U. 63 mins. A Napoleonic burlesque in " the sticks."
" DRESSED TO THRILL." U. 68 mins. If you are easily thrilled. There is Clive Brook.
" KIDNAPPED." U. 56 mins. R. L. S. wrote a good story with this title. This isn't it.
her pearls and chooses the same route to Spain as Gary Cooper, unbelievably good as an American motor salesman.
The Lubitsch touch is apparent, and every incident is a clear-cut cameo, each character a personality. As the cars tear towards the frontier your mind harks back to the jeweller (Ernest Cossart) and the nerve specialist (Alan Mowbray) left bewildered in Paris, until a predicament develops at the customs.
The motor salesman gets the pearls and doesn't know it. He wants the thief, and nobody seeing the new Marlene will wonder at that, and she wants the pearls. And so severally they come to San Sebastian.
Complications become more complicated when John Halliday, the big shot among the jewel thieves, takes a hand in the game. He detaches the jewels from the motor salesman, but finds he cannot detach the motor salesman from the girl.
"Mind," says the Big Shot to his myrmidon, "no emotional entanglements." That is the prelude to the lapse into romance. It is a lapse to change from comedy to romance. Even good romance, and it is good, is a lesser thing than great comedy.
An endeavour is made, not too successfully, to infuse a haunting refrain like "Falling in Love Again," but melodies like that only happen once. The romance progresses with comedy flashes. (Puck is inevitably ubiquitous) and comedy comes again into control in the final sequences. It is a great picture that might be greater still with ten minutes pruned, here and there, from its second half.
It is Dietrich's best, and yet her performance is not the best in the picture. Gary Cooper is to her "Desire" what Jannings to her "Blue Angel." Still, even if it has taken years, Hollywood has discovered Dietrich.
" Rose Marie"
The Empire Nelson Eddy looks like a man, acts like a man, speaks like a man and sings like a man. He is a man and a "Mounty."
Jeanette Macdonald is every bit and in every way as feminine as Eddy is masculine, and if it has been found necessary to change and sophisticate the character of Rose Marie to suit her personality, to make of her an operatic star with a brother wanted by the North-West Mounted, her handling of the part more than justifies the change, even if it does mean that the picture gets off to a rather slow start.
Once it is under way it never sags, the story holds and the melodies interlace with its development and fit perfectly into a superb photographic background of mountain, wood and water.
WHY NOT IN COLOUR?
Inevitably an outstandingly successful stage production must incur comparisons when produced in cinema. One cannot help feeling that M.G.M. lost a great chance in not making "Rose Marie" in colour. There could not be a better vehicle for the colour medium, with scarlet uniforms and the garishness of the famous Totem dance set off against the richness and depth of nature's colouring. But, either the time is not ripe or the producers did not care to risk it, and for the present we have to see the decorative Jeanette through the eyes of Nelson Eddy's official docket and imagine the natural glory suggested by black and white.