From IRIS CONLAY, Catholic Herald Film Critic Twice lately the cinema has been caught out " talking shop." Once the French put it across brilliantly in Marchand d'amour and once the Americans in A Star was Born. Now Hollywood's hest noddles must have got nodding together again, and out of friendly satire and much teasing mood has emerged Stand-In. (Tivoli.) Stand-In is that rare thing—everybody's picture. It comes off just once in a million chances that one kind of production gets every kind of person, and although when it happens it is the sign of a great picture, it is also the sign of a bad precedent.
Although I feel sure that the one picture that suits everybody is brilliant—yet it is freak brilliance. There is not a ghost of a hope that if only we got better and better at picture-making we should make more and more of these " pictures for everybody." Seems to me just a box-office dream and of the substance of nothing.
Segregated Cinemas The realist sees other possibilities for the better and better picture-makers. He sees a classified cinema like the classified theatre. He sees cinemas everywhere each devoted to a specialised type of film. Popular musicals in one, drama in another, poetic cinema (yes, why not) in a third— and so on. Why not, oh you builders of mammoth houses of entertainment? (I am sure that I see lots of why-nots," but I'd like things that way so much better than the present melodram musical philosophic presentations, that I'll enjoy myself without contradiction this week, and let the trade give me authoritative judgment later.) All this by way of introduction to the matter in hand—Stand-In, and its brillian
cies that make everyone's show.
In the first place it has Leslie Howard —a maturer Leslie, a Leslie who wears spectacles, looks stupid sometimes, is in love with—well, the wrong kind of figures —mathematical ones, and has never heard of Shirley Temple. Although his prime movement is still to look every minute a gentleman, Leslie has to pull out his stops in this picture and act all the way, not just depend upon grey waistcoats and whimsy.
What We Know
As a banker, very young and innocent a one, Leslie takes upon himself the responsibility of reorganising a film studio. And
in a lovely burlesque of film town life, both we and Leslieget a little bewildered.
Leslie says he has not heard of Shirley Temple, and does not know what a " standin " is, we are in advance of him there, but did we know that Hollywood's architecture resembled a carnival procession of mythical monstrosities? Like Leslie we knew about stars and the courses that they run, but did we realise that it is possible to live in a boarding-house in California and be down-and-out and share a bathroom with the performing seal?
Leslie wanted to be alone in Hollywood, so he chose to stay in such a boardinghouse because he knew no one held parties there. True, but Miss Joan Blondell had a room adjoining, and the noise of her sobbing proved just as disturbing to Mr. Howard as the parties—However . . .
Awful Puzzling Life on the sets was very puzzling to Mr. Howard, too. He watched Miss Blondell under glowing arc-lamps pedalling away up something representing a mountain, and anyway she was only representing the star, Marla Shelton. Mr. Howard didn't like that, so he took Miss Blondell off to be his secretary—and when he didn't like that either, he took her off to be his wife.
Although he is a banker and a capitalist with funny little habits like emptying ashtrays whenever he sees them, Leslie has the right spirit. When the crash comes and three thousand employees are turned out of the studios, it is Leslie, in spite of pepper and salt trousers and a bowler hat, who steps in and saves the concern.
Just quite how he keeps it going is an unkind probing which is uncalled for after a magnificent run of everything filmic for your one bob and saxpence.
Mussolini's Films Italy and Spain are the only two great European powers who have hardly ever sent us over films. For Spain there is excuse, but less for Italy. Therefore it was particularly interesting to receive Lo Squadrone Bianco (The White Squadron) Academy, the first production of Mussolini's new studios.
In many ways the film is a reassuring one. Artistically its standard is high. Deserts have always laid themselves out for camera shots, but perhaps never before have so many advantages been taken of the swift lurch of the camel in progression; the pattern of triangular beast and his elongated shadow multiplied upon the blank of sand. Even the under-carriage of camel
is a beautiful sight if seen with the camera's eye.
But long fading light and quick storms in Libya cannot bear up a full-length film, and the story of this Italian venture is feeble and aged and cold of vitality. Foreign Legions were all very well when Tunis was a name and our longest journey Manchester and back, but now we know too much about Legionaires to believe that they arc recruited from the " crossed in loves." So also are we sceptical of dispised young lieutenants who make good in a single moment on battlefields and win their senior officer's respect all just like that, and then give up a woman's love for the love of the desert. Life is different.
Antonio Centa and Fulvia Lanai star, but it is the desert only that really counts h this film,