THE LIMITATIONS OF HOLLYWOOD
The path of the film-maker is beset with obstacles. Most of them he tackles manfully and with varying success. Some of them hc does not even appreciate. Hollywood has never been able to realise its own inability to reproduce a royal atmosphere. It cannot depict diplomacy except in terms of graft, inevitably its politics resolve themselves into dollars and cents; it talks glibly of the "grand," but the grand manner invariably eludes it. Occasionally it has managed to get away with a semi-savage court, as in Queen Christina; sometimes an individual performance shines so brightly that it casts shortcomings into shadow, as in Disraeli; and box-office success breeds confidence.
There is one great obstacle before which, it would seem, Hollywood has decided to lie down; that is the problem of the Middle West. The Middle West, in terms of box office, is a vast population of dull-witted, semi-literate patrons of the pictures. They are so ill-informed that they think they know it all, and, too often, Hollywood allows them to dictate to the world, Without going into the literacy of picture producers, we can say, with safety, that, as a body, they are not dull-witted. They cannot be as daft as some of their eutpourings. Possessed, as they are, of a mania for foreign travel, they must someantes see some things as they are. The kindly curiosity of an aristocracy must have enabled quite a few of them to be oil cordial, if not intimate, terms with some real lords and a few not too artificial ladies. They must have heard members of the peerage spoken to and even heard them speak. In their own Hollywood palaces they have entertained, and perhaps less often in their studios paid people who know things to do and tell of the thing.; they know.
And yet Hollywood persists in reproducing a strange imaginary creature, vacuous, vocal and inarticulate which they, in their prejudice or ignorance, call " the typical Englishman," a being with far less relation to any extant species than had that memory of the Victorian era the stage Irishman." Such absurdity is unworthy of a medium with any pretence of culture and, were it not ignorantly stupid, would be insulting.
The reason of this exhibition of illiteracy is Middle West, and, of the West family, Middle is a greater menace than Mae. Hollywood has been told about it but " there are none so deaf as them as won't hear." A Hollywood actor, in an English picture, speaking of similar stupidities, repeated often, in effect,—" you know it isn't true, and I know it isn't true, but in the Middle West they know it is true." The question arises in this country, whether or not we are going to allow the Middle West to dictate our entertairunent.
Quite recently Americans made fools of themselves in the eyes of the world by an ignorant interference with an historical picture. They gave the world a laugh over Nell Gwyn and deceived their own nationals by giving them distorted history. The same world is trembling in delighted :aticipation of what is going to happen when some continental or British studio decides to make a film of the Bible.
But, though we are quite prepared to admit Hollywood's right, so far as we are concerned, to mislead Americans if Americans submit to being misled, we do protest against Hollywood's being rude to us. If the British market is worth having it is worth considering. America told Gil, in effect, that Americans are too young, as yet, to be admitted to historic truth. We would suggest to Hollywood in general and, this week, to M.G.M. in particutar, that we are too old to be fed on silly lies. The special reference is to a minor character in a new picture directed by Edward H. Griffith from a screen play by Donald Ogden Steward and Horace Jackson, three minds with but a single thought.
NEW FILMS " No More Ladies"
A picture wherein three players work to character and the rest to type and repu tation. Even M.G.M. have seldom fielded a more impressive-looking side than in this sophisticated (in the correct sense of the word and not meaning 'suggestive') society comedy of two young, loving and very modern hearts who know and, knowing, fear the moral frailty of their generation and the effect it may have upon their marriage. It is a tricky theme that calls for rare subtlety in handling. Too many points of view have been allowed to intrude, too many considerations allowed to weigh.
Joan Crawford, after a signature in type, leaps into character and, in an unaccustomed part, no longer over made-up but still eccentrically apparelled, gives a fine, restrained and sensitive performance as a young wife with old-fashioned feelings and a modern point of view. Reginald Denny also works to character and ought to be given further and better chances along that line; he has not much to do but he does it well.
Co-starred with Miss Crawford is Robert Montgomery (who has made friends and become Bob to everybody during his visit to England) in a too typical Montgomery part as her husband. Too much typicality causes a recurrent sag in the story. Obviously the parts have been made to fit the players and Franchot Tone, Charlie Ruggles and Edna May Oliver run too true to form; they never get quite out of themselves and, consequently, never get quite into their parts.
Which brings us to the black mark. Arthur Treacher has been introduced in what should have been a typical Roland Young part. If Roland Young had played it he would have stolen the picture. Arthur is no Roland, maybe he is more amenable, maybe he is not so well-off. He and his part are sacrificed to the Middle West, he turns in a study which should be as distressing to an intelligent actor as it is to an intelligent audience.
" The Bride of Frankenstein"
As horror pictures go (and we wish they would) this is first-class. It has dcBorised Karloff and introduced as tine a lightning character sketch as the most fastidious fan could wish. Elsa Lanchester has about a minute-and-a-half and half-adozen sentences in which to draw Mary Shelly. She does it and you know, and will remember, just what Mary Shelly was. That, we submit, is acting.
The rest is the usual series of thrills, horrors, improbabilities, astonishments and impossibilities developed to the nth degree. The Frankenstein monster indulges in a little incidental murder, breaks gaol, frightens all and sundry, gets matey with a blind monk, and learns a bit of English, and how to cat like Henry VIII.
Dr. Pretorious decides that the monster should have a bride, introduces some charming little bottled puppets, puts the screws on Frankenstein, whom he drags from Savile Row of 1935, to help him in the early eighteen-hundreds (a bit of a stretch for even Mary Shelly's imagination) and, after staging a Burke and Hare act and a picnic in a crypt, with the aid of a thunderstorm and an illuminated electric lift. he delivers the goods in the form of a rigid young woman who is as little appreciative of the monster as the monster is of her. The Baron Frankenstein and his baroness-to-be skip forward through the ages just in time to avoid the father and mother of all screen explosions. See The Bride of Frankenstein and know the meaning of " stupendous " and" colossal."
The Glass key"
It may be the heat wave, or publicity timidity on the part of Paramount, or just that the powers of discrimination of the glorious British public are waning; but once again a good picture has failed to make the grade at the Plaza where Four Hours to Kill is displaced by The Glass Key. in which George Raft is starred amongst the tarnished angels. George is as tough as ever as the henchman of Boss Politician Edward Arnold, who has a dear old mother. a sweet daughter and a heart of gold,--" a guy who wouldn't kill anything "—but who, none the less, has to he extricated from a murder " rap to make a story. He is. and how! George does it and, because gangsters arc still gangsters even when they don't come out on top, he takes more punches than he ever gave. He does. howsver, administer, as a preliminary to marital engagement, an effective knock-out to the point of Miss Rosalind Keith's jaw, He also disposes of Mr. Roy Milland but, as he does it in a new and vastly diverting manner, we will leave you to learn it for yourselves. George gets his halo, but, as yet, it does not fit him very well,
44, Under Pressure " and
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood"
It would be impossible to imagine a more American picture than Under Pressure. It tells you more about tunnelling and the dangers of work under pressure of compressed air than you would ever be likely to learn in any other way. It does it in a fast-moving story which introduces Victor McLaglan and Edmund Lowe "Flagg and Quirt-ingin a filtered version of the old way. They struggle, for the honour of Brooklyn, with New York, in the person of Charles Bickford, under the bed of the East River. A dual feminine interest is sustained by Florence Rice and Marjorie Rambcau. This is the best sort of educational film, you learn from a job, not from a teacher.
it is possible to respect a person too much to understand him. Universal Films are a bit that way about Dickens. They have been tremendously reverent to the master, but they have not caught his atmosphere. Frightened of his plebeian appeal they have avoided his humour and made him the one thing he could never be—rather dull.
The solution of the problem has as much surprise about it as Petersen's right, you can see it a mile off. Claude Rains lives the part of Jasper, the rest play their parts well. Douglas Montgomery and Heather Angel are attractive lovers even if they aren't Dickensian. Valerie Hobson, with little to do, is convincing enough to warrant a chance.
NOTE.—One Night of Love is at the Polytechnic. Of course you've seen it, and of course you'll go again.
Abyssinia is at the Rialto. Abyssinia : in a few days.